Sneak Preview: GAO Urges Improved Use of SNAP Data Matching

December 8, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xsass_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Single Audit Information Service.) Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) plan to better disseminate information about promising practices in which state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) agencies can use data matching to determine participant eligibility, in response to recommendations in a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

Because households must meet a certain household income to be eligible for SNAP, state SNAP agencies must evaluate data from various sources (e.g., earned income and unearned income) to ensure the household is eligible. When a beneficiary’s SNAP certification period ends, the household must reapply for benefits and the SNAP agency must again review data to ensure the beneficiary is still eligible. In addition, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Compliance Supplement requires auditors reviewing state SNAP agencies to assess whether their programs appropriately determined eligibility for recipients and that they maintained required documentation and verification.

SNAP agencies use data matching to verify eligibility information about SNAP applicants or recipient households, including their incomes, as well as to help detect improper payments. Federal law and regulations require states to conduct data matches from certain databases for SNAP eligibility, including three matches that provide non-income related information on people who may be incarcerated, deceased or otherwise disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits. These databases include the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) National Directory of New Hires, Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Prisoner Verification System and the SSA Death Master File.

States also can use several other national data sources (e.g., Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance; Public Assistance Reporting Information System Interstate File). Most state agencies the GAO interviewed said that they used multiple data matching for income information to determine SNAP eligibility, gathering information from federal, state and commercial data sources. State agencies said that data matches that are particularly useful are those that provide current information, can be accessed in real-time and come from original sources rather than from a secondary source.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site.)


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