USDA Expands Flexibility, Encourages Program Integration in SNAP Administration

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20, 2017 – Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued national program guidance that gives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) state operators new flexibility to make their operations more efficient while improving customer service.

SNAP is unique among federal programs in that the law requires state civil servants (“merit system personnel”) to certify applicant households for benefits. The new guidance clarifies that while certification decisions must be made by state employees, FNS is expanding the possible use of contracted private-sector staff to provide basic case-specific information. Previous FNS guidance restricted state contractor staff to a much more limited set of activities.

The new policy maximizes flexibility within the law related to the SNAP certification process, while holding states accountable for ensuring eligible people have access to food benefits as they move toward self-sufficiency. This change will allow states to eliminate silos and align service delivery across programs, improve the use of technology, and spur innovation. USDA recently approved requests from Michigan followed by Louisiana, and this guidance reflects the Department’s interest in considering other similar state requests.

“State human service agencies are implementing innovative strategies to streamline access to multiple programs, improve efficiency, and provide great customer service. This flexibility is a positive step toward…

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