WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has issued national program guidance that gives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) state operators new flexibility to make their operations more efficient while improving customer service.
SNAP is unique among federal programs in that the law requires state civil servants (“merit system personnel”) to certify applicant households for benefits. The new guidance clarifies that while certification decisions must be made by state employees, FNS is expanding the possible use of contracted private-sector staff to provide basic case-specific information. Previous FNS guidance restricted state contractor staff to a much more limited set of activities.
The new policy maximizes flexibility within the law related to the SNAP certification process, while holding states accountable for ensuring eligible people have access to food benefits as they move toward self-sufficiency. This change will allow states to eliminate silos and align service delivery across programs, improve the use of technology, and spur innovation. USDA recently approved requests from Michigan followed by Louisiana, and this guidance reflects the Department’s interest in considering other similar state requests.
“State human service agencies are implementing innovative strategies to streamline access to multiple programs, improve efficiency, and provide great customer service. This flexibility is a positive step toward enhancing customer service and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I encourage all states with an interest in this new flexibility to consider this change in policy, especially states looking for better ways to align their operations across multiple programs.”
“Making government more efficient, effective and accountable is a cornerstone to serving the people of Michigan better,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “President Trump’s Cabinet has been very good about talking with governors on how the two levels of government can work together more to the benefit of our residents. I’m pleased that Secretary Perdue has approved our request and encourage other states to take innovative ideas to federal departments for consideration.”
FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information on FNS assistance visit fns.usda.gov.
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