Expedited Service in the Food Stamp Program

CED-82-59: Published: Mar 15, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 1982.

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GAO was asked to examine the use of expedited service in the Food Stamp Program, including: (1) the extent to which expedited service is used; (2) the extent of the service's susceptibility to abuse; (3) the impact that the service has on administrative case workloads; and (4) suggestions for improving or eliminating the service.

The expedited service provision requires processing of new food stamp applications and the issuing of benefits in 3 working days. In general, households considered destitute or with no monthly income are eligible for expedited services. The verification of household circumstances, except for identity or residency, may be postponed. The number of households applying for food stamps under expedited service varied greatly. The error rate for expedited cases generally was lower than the rate for food stamp cases overall; however, because of the limited number of expedited cases in the review and the impact of incomplete case reviews, the error rate data may not be accurate. The higher error rate for the overall caseload may be explained partly by the fact that some kinds of errors are unlikely in the expedited caseload. For example, agency errors account for about one-third of the dollars issued erroneously in regular cases, but are rare in expedited cases. Further, although some expedited service cases contained overissuance errors, they had no impact on case error rates. Another factor was that not all quality control cases selected for review were actually reviewed. State officials said that the handling of expedited cases disrupted the daily food stamp work schedule, and officials in States with computer mail issuance reported similar problems. Officials in some of the States visited favored changes to the expedited procedures, such as longer application periods and a liquid resource test, but had mixed feelings about a gross income for clients.

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