WASHINGTON — The U.S Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) today announced the fiscal year (FY) 2019 payment error rate for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The error rate is a key indicator of payment accuracy, measuring a state’s ability to determine a household’s eligibility for SNAP and issue benefits in the correct amount. The nationwide error rate for FY 2019 is 7.36%.
“The payment accuracy data released today are a clear message that states must redouble efforts to ensure taxpayer-funded benefits for households in need are determined accurately, every time,” said Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps. “USDA’s FNS is leading the effort, providing our state and local partners with detailed information and specific recommendations designed to empower them to address the key drivers of their payment error rates.”
While federal funds cover 100% of benefits and 50% of administrative costs, FNS is dependent on state and local partners to operate the program. To ensure leadership at all levels are engaged in improving accuracy of SNAP payments, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue sent letters to the governors of the 14 states with the most significant error rates asking for their “personal involvement.” The FY 2019 national error rate increased from 6.8% in FY 2018.
Secretary Perdue also notified Congress that USDA, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, will withhold the usual 50% reimbursement of state SNAP agency administrative funds for those states who fail to comply with their corrective action plans. He also called on Congress to fund an FY2021 budget proposal for electronic income verification. Errors from the lack of timely and accurate wage reporting represent 40% of all errors in the program. The budget proposal addresses the largest single source of errors and reduces the burden on recipients to report.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) independently reviews a sampling of each state’s data to ensure reviews are conducted properly, and targets corrective action and sanctions for poor performance, as provided under the law. This year, FNS will issue nearly $43.5 million in sanctions to 12 high-error states to ensure they are working diligently to improve payment accuracy. States must either pay the full amount immediately to the U.S. Treasury or promptly reinvest half of these funds in FNS-approved actions to reduce errors and pay the remainder if accuracy does not improve. The error rate announced today represents data from October 2018 to September 2019. Payments issued during the coronavirus pandemic are not included in this measure.
Following the release of the FY 2018 SNAP payment error rate last year, FNS increased its engagement with states to address payment accuracy beginning with Secretary Perdue’s direct appeal to Governors in high error states, and development of Keys to Payment Accuracy, which provides a comprehensive step-by-step approach to addressing program errors. FNS will build upon these efforts by:
- Implementing rigorous Corrective Action Plans (CAP) based on data-driven solutions to lower error rates in liability states.
- Providing every state with an analysis showing the key drivers of their payment error rate, combined efforts in the past year to improve payment accuracy, and recommendations for improving payment accuracy moving forward.
- Engaging states at all levels on the need to make the necessary investments in personnel, training, and systems to improve payment accuracy.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.
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