Federal and State Initiatives Needed To Improve Productivity and Reduce Administrative Costs of the Aid to Families With Dependent Children and Food Stamp Programs

AFMD-84-18: Published: Feb 2, 1984. Publicly Released: Feb 2, 1984.

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Administrative costs in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Food Stamp programs have increased at a more rapid pace than benefit payments to recipients. GAO reviewed the processing of AFDC and Food Stamp applications at 15 welfare offices in 8 states. This review was based on a comparison of the productivity of these offices. GAO also examined the impact that inconsistent federal criteria for determining an applicant's income and assets and different federal time periods for processing AFDC and Food Stamp cases have on productivity.

From its review, GAO found that productivity rates of workers directly involved in processing AFDC and Food Stamp applications varied widely among the 15 welfare offices. This variance resulted primarily from processing practices, which included case-processing methods, use of computers, management expectation of employee performance, and efforts to verify applicants' data. Although the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considered demographic factors to be a key cause of productivity variances in the AFDC program, GAO determined that they did not have a significant impact on the 15 offices. In addition, GAO found that: (1) federal requirements for determining an applicant's income and assets hinder state and local case-processing productivity; and (2) federal agencies need to emphasize productivity in much the same way as they have emphasized reducing payment errors.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The proposal to limit administrative cost reimbursement by putting limits on percentage above average to be reimbursed implements this recommendation to measure productivity by state for the programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services should establish a nationwide productivity measurement and reporting system for AFDC and Food Stamp programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The proposal to limit administrative cost reimbursement by putting limits on percentage above average to be reimbursed implements this recommendation to measure productivity by state for the programs.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services should establish a nationwide productivity measurement and reporting system for AFDC and Food Stamp programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Some changes were made to standardize criteria. Other changes were not acted on by Congress.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services should establish a joint mechanism for identifying the best operating practices, including changes in federal laws and regulations, that will facilitate prompt, accurate, and efficient processing for both programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Some changes were made to standardize criteria. Other changes were not acted on by Congress.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services should establish a joint mechanism for identifying the best operating practices, including changes in federal laws and regulations, that will facilitate prompt, accurate, and efficient processing for both programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: USDA made proposals that Congress has not enacted into law. Some proposed changes which standardize criteria were made.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services should formulate uniform federal financial requirements for measuring incomes and assets, setting common time periods for processing applications and closing out cases, and proposing legislative change as necessary for congressional action.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Some changes which standardize parts of the criteria were enacted. Other changes were not acted upon by Congress.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services should formulate uniform federal financial requirements for measuring incomes and assets, setting common time periods for processing applications and closing out cases, and proposing legislative change as necessary for congressional action.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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