USDA updates food stamp fraud controls

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2012-The Department of Agriculture announced tougher sanctions for those misusing  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) today. The updated measures include tougher financial sanctions for retailers that defraud the program and new requirements for States to ensure benefits go solely to eligible individuals.

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Under Secretary for USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon also today released third quarter, fiscal year 2012 results of fraudulent activity in SNAP retail stores.  According to the results, USDA imposed sanctions, through fines or temporary disqualifications, on more than 574 stores found violating program rules; and permanently disqualified 1,016 stores for trafficking SNAP benefits falsifying an application.

"USDA has a zero tolerance policy for SNAP fraud," Concannon said. "These additional measures reaffirm our ongoing commitment to ensuring these dollars are spent as intended-helping millions of people in need get back on solid economic footing."

The retailer sanctions proposal allows USDA to permanently disqualify a retailer who traffics and also assess a monetary penalty in addition to the disqualification. Financial penalties would be proportional to the amount of SNAP business the store is conducting, which will help ensure that the financial punishment more closely fits the crime, Concannon said. Currently, when a retailer is found guilty of fraud or abuse, USDA can either disqualify the retailer from participating in SNAP, or issue a financial penalty, but not both.

Today's announcement includes new requirements for States to take specific actions that would catch fraud and abuse earlier and ensure that ineligible people do not participate in the program.

The new standards strengthen integrity by giving States an additional computer identification tool to identify cases that may require further investigation and review when an applicant or recipient is found in a Federal database, USDA said in its release. 

"These requirements will make us better at identifying potential fraud and abuse before it occurs, as well as help us hold bad actors even more accountable than in the past and discourage them from abusing the public's trust," Concannon said.


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