USDA seeks to improve SNAP with more state cooperation

December 6, 2017

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it will increase cooperation with states in the operation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to promote self-sufficiency, integrity in the program, and better customer service. To make these improvements, the USDA intends to offer state agencies greater local control over SNAP, the safety net program that serves millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families. Specifics on such flexibilities will be communicated to state agencies in the coming weeks.

“As a former Governor, I know first-hand how important it is for states to be given flexibility to achieve the desired goal of self-sufficiency for people,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We want to provide the nutrition people need, but we also want to help them transition from government programs, back to work, and into lives of independence.”

The broad outlines of the coming flexibilities aimed at transitioning people into independence are:

  • Self-Sufficiency: The agency must facilitate the transition for individuals and families to become independent, specifically by partnering with key stakeholders in the workforce development community and holding the SNAP recipients accountable for personal responsibility.
  • Integrity: The agency must ensure the programs are run with the utmost integrity. Waste, fraud, or abuse will not be tolerated.
  • Customer Service: In order to achieve a high degree of customer service, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) must provide states the flexibility to test new and better ways to administer the programs.

“We believe states are laboratories of innovation and seek to learn from you what works and what does not,” wrote Brandon Lipps, FNS administrator, in a letter to all SNAP commissioners.  “As necessary to address each of these focus areas, we will allow greater state flexibility in areas that do not increase costs to taxpayers or our various partners on the ground.”

The FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program.

Press release

Lipps’ letter to SNAP commissioners (pdf)