States' Capability To Prevent or Detect Multiple Participation in the Food Stamp Program

CED-82-103: Published: Jun 16, 1982. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1982.

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GAO was asked to obtain information on the following: (1) the States' capability to prevent or detect multiple participation in the Food Stamp Program; and (2) how many States do not have a statewide computer system for the Program and what progress these States are making to obtain such a system. In addition, GAO was asked to determine whether the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has authority to require States to develop such a statewide computer system for administering the Program.

GAO found that using computers to match data from different sources is an effective way to detect errors in distributing Food Stamp Program and other income security benefits. The States' capability to routinely perform such checks on an intrastate or interstate basis is largely dependent on their having sufficient equipment, information, and software. When implemented, several legislative provisions enacted by Congress tend to enhance the States' capabilities for computer matching. This includes the detection of multiple participation as part of an overall effort to provide efficient and effective program administration. The availability of social security numbers is critical to computer matching operations involving both incomes and participation comparisons. In the future, States will be required to obtain and use social security numbers for all participating household members regardless of their age or income status. Subject to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service's approval, the proposed funding regulation would provide 75-percent Federal reimbursement for computer system planning, design, development, and installation costs. GAO also found that: (1) 37 States and the District of Columbia have statewide computer systems for administering the Food Stamp Program; (2) 32 of these States can make tests to prevent or detect multiple participation by the head of household; and (3) USDA cannot require States to develop or install a statewide computer system for the Program.

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