USDA proposes rules to enhance SNAP regulation

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 24, 2012 - Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon today announced new measures to address fraud in USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 

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The proposed rule provides States the option to require SNAP recipients to make contact with the state when there have been an excessive number of requests for replacements in a year. The proposal lets States set the threshold for contact but stipulates that it be no fewer than four requests in the 12 month period prior to the requests. This will provide States the opportunity to determine whether the request is legitimate, or requires further investigation, Concannon said. States using the option must also ensure that they protect vulnerable people who lose their cards but are not committing fraud. The proposed rule is available on the Food and Nutrition Service website and will be published in the Federal Register for public comment, stated USDA.

Current law lacks needed flexibility for States to contact households for information about requests for multiple replacements, which in some cases may indicate fraudulent activity, USDA stated in its release today.

"There are many legitimate reasons for replacing cards and the vast majority of recipients follow the rules," said Concannon.  "But we are concerned that a few bad actors are using replacement cards to exchange SNAP benefits for cash, commonly referred to as trafficking."

Trafficking is an illegal activity punishable by disqualification from the program, fines, and even criminal prosecution. According to USDA, FNS measures helped reduced the prevalence of trafficking in SNAP from 4 percent to 1 percent.

USDA sent letters to the CEOs of Craigslist, EBay, Facebook and Twitter to reiterate the need to help prevent the illegal sale or purchase of SNAP benefits on their websites. The proposed rule also codifies current policy that such attempted sales are trafficking violations.

Concannon also today released second quarter, fiscal year 2012 results of USDA work in fighting fraudulent activity in SNAP retail stores, tallying final actions to sanction or disqualify retailers violating program rules. In that quarter, USDA took final action to impose sanctions, through fines or temporary disqualifications, on more than 198 stores found violating program rules; and permanently disqualified over 366 stores for trafficking in SNAP benefits (i.e. exchanging SNAP benefits for cash).

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