August 03, 2023

Interpretive Summary: Ag leaders send joint letter to Governors and Administrators

Ag leaders send joint letter to Governors and Administrators 

By: Sydney Sheffield

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently released the fiscal year 2022 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) payment error rates. The report showed an increase in payment errors. In response, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, Ranking Member David Scott, Senator John Boozman, and Senator Debbie Stabenow issued a joint statement. 

"The pandemic caused new challenges for USDA and states alike, who took measures to ensure access to SNAP. However, the national error rate as reported today is unacceptable and threatens the integrity of the program,” the statement said. “We urge governors and administrators to promptly establish corrective action plans and continue to work with USDA to address the root causes of these errors to improve their program operations, remain accountable to the taxpayer, and most importantly, ensure that benefits are targeted to the people who are the most in need."

As part of the flexibilities granted to states beginning in the spring of 2020, Congress removed the requirement for states to conduct quality control reviews, which resulted in USDA being unable to publish the annual national and state payment error rates for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. In fiscal year 2022, states resumed reporting error rates to USDA, allowing for the reinstatement of the annual publication.

According to USDA, the SNAP program had an 11.54% payment error rate in 2022. That marks a 4% increase from 2019. Nationally the 2022 overpayment rate was 9.84% while underpayments were 1.7%. On the state level, Alaska had the largest percentage of payment errors with almost 57%. It was followed by Maryland with 35.56%, Oregon with just under 23%, and Delaware with more than 22%. The payment error percentages in those states were overwhelmingly driven by overpayments. New Hampshire had the highest percentage of underpayments at 4.63%. South Dakota and Idaho boasted the nation’s lowest overall payment error rates with 3.07% and 3.44% respectively.

USDA states it is taking steps to remove payment errors, such as:

  • Establishing frequent communication with states on corrective actions and opportunities for targeted improvement
  • Notifying states that are at risk of financial penalties if they do not lower their fiscal year 2023 error rate
  • Providing extensive training, guidance, and tailored assistance to help all state and local SNAP agencies identify and address the root causes of the errors
  • Updating guidance on best practices, providing more real-world examples of payment accuracy strategies that have worked in the past
  • Facilitating peer-to-peer learning opportunities so state agencies can learn from other states with similar characteristics or challenges
  • Seeking resources through the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget to bolster FNS program integrity efforts, including support for a system that would equip USDA with better visibility into states’ financial and program integrity risks
  • Developing tools to help states identify error-prone households

“USDA is committed to supporting states in improving payment accuracy in SNAP to ensure the program effectively and efficiently serves those who need it and promotes good stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “We are doubling down to work with state partners to find ways to decrease payment errors and tackle the issues aggressively at their root cause. Together, we will continue to move toward a stronger, efficient, more modern future for SNAP and those it serves.”