States invest in SNAP fraud detection, prevention

Several states are upgrading their data, IT systems and staff intelligence to crack down on fraud within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program thanks to recent grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For FY2022, six states and the District of Columbia have been awarded SNAP Fraud Framework Implementation Grants to improve “fraud prevention, detection, and investigation efforts by implementing principles from the SNAP Fraud Framework, a toolkit designed to help states prevent and detect fraud and sharpen their investigative techniques,” Food and Nutrition Service officials said.

The SNAP program “has zero tolerance for fraud and continues to work with its state partners to implement measures to improve program integrity,” FNS officials said in the fraud detection request for applications. “While most recipients are eligible and use their benefits as intended, there are some who violate program rules.” 

Funds will be directed into efforts promoting the seven components of SNAP Fraud Framework: organizational management, performance measurement, recipient integrity education, fraud detection, investigations and dispositions, analytics and data management, and learning and development.

The District of Columbia was awarded $708,849 to support efforts to “improve the administration of SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards by addressing card security and data reporting, improving data analysis and investigations with enhanced technology, and hiring a data analytics manager,” FNS said in the district’s award statement. The district will also invest in educational materials to prevent SNAP fraud.

So far the Wyoming Department of Family Services has received  the largest  award – $750,000. The funds will go toward developing a front-end eligibility investigation process that will use tools such as accuity asset verification services to detect illicit SNAP cases. FNS said the process could enable employees “to quickly review questionable cases to verify information provided by applicants and/or identify undeclared assets.” 

Wisconsin follows close behind with a $741,751 award that the Department of Health Services will use to develop a data analysis program that will present current and incoming SNAP data in a new, easier-to-use format. FNS officials said this update will catch deceitful SNAP transactions quickly, identify fraud trends and make data and data analysis more accessible to analysts and investigators. 

California’s Department of Social Services was awarded $740,000 that will contribute to the incorporation of an automated data analytics model within the state’s fraud investigations process. The model could assist “investigators and data analytics staff to better concentrate efforts on investigating recipients who are revealed through data analysis, as likely to be engaging in SNAP fraud, including EBT trafficking,” FNS officials said in the award statement.

Texas was another recipient with an award of $404,037 to its Health and Human Services Commission. Texas will use the money to create a fraud prevention training program in addition to sending 15 HHSC employees to national conferences and staff developmental training. The grant will also support the creation of “integrity educational materials to inform SNAP clients on reporting requirements and program rules,” FNS officials said. 

The Illinois’s Department of Human Services will use its $352,091 award for educational services that will be made available to SNAP clients, SNAP Fraud Unit members and frontline eligibility workers. These individuals will learn about recipient scams, misuse of benefits, detecting, investigating and prosecuting fraud, according to the  Illinois award statement.

Finally, Oregon’s Department of Human Services was granted $245,067 to create a “temporary position to conduct data analytics and research to identify deception trends within the program and develop strategies to generate quality investigation referrals,” FNS officials said. The addition of the position will help prioritize staff  workloads and could yield more referrals, according to the agency. The jobholder would also lead outreach efforts and training for field staff in addition to educating SNAP clients on fraud awareness. 

Before the launch of SNAP Fraud Framework, FNS partnered with 10 states between 2014 and 2017 to trial the strategies used to advance fraud detection analysis, improvement in administration and oversight increase. 

“There is no simple solution to combat fraud and each State may require a different approach to improve program integrity,” FNS officials said in the application request. “The SNAP Fraud Framework acknowledges the need for State flexibility by offering a menu of options for States to implement as they work to improve program operations and efforts.”

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