USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon has announced strategies to further improve program integrity in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP. According to Concannon – USDA has a zero tolerance policy for SNAP fraud. He says the measures announced Thursday include tougher financial sanctions for the small number of retailers that defraud the program – and new requirements and tools for states to ensure benefits go solely to eligible individuals. Concannon believes these additional measures reaffirm the department’s commitment to ensuring SNAP dollars are spent as intended – helping millions of people in need get back on solid economic footing.
Proposed retailer sanctions allow USDA to permanently disqualify a retailer who traffics – and to assess a monetary penalty on top of the disqualification. USDA is not currently able to do both. To ensure the financial punishment more closely fits the crime – the financial penalties would be proportional to the amount of SNAP business the store is conducting. The new requirements for states provide an additional tool to identify cases that may require further investigation and review when an applicant or recipient is found in a Federal database. Concannon says these requirements will improve the identification of potential fraud and abuse before it occurs – and help to hold bad actors more accountable.
During the third quarter of fiscal year 2012 – USDA staff took final actions to impose sanctions – through fines or temporary disqualifications – on more than 574 stores found violating program rules. They also permanently disqualified more than one-thousand stores for trafficking SNAP benefits – for example, exchanging SNAP benefits for cash – or falsifying an application.