Food Stamp Program:

Participants Temporarily Terminated for Procedural Noncompliance

RCED-89-81: Published: Jun 22, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 6, 1989.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined Georgia and Wisconsin food stamp recipients' benefit interruptions to determine the extent of and reasons for participants' temporary termination from food stamp programs.

GAO found that: (1) 87 percent of interruptions experienced in Georgia and Wisconsin households were due to eligibility status changes, and the remaining interruptions were caused by households' or states' noncompliance with procedural requirements; (2) during fiscal year 1987, procedural noncompliance caused about 18,800 Georgia households to lose between $400,000 and $3.4 million in benefits and about 14,400 Wisconsin households to lose between $400,000 and $1.9 million in benefits; (3) household-caused interruptions resulted from participants' failure to timely submit monthly reports, provide verification documents, notify offices of nonreceipt of stamps, or meet work requirements; (4) Georgia, along with 39 other states, adopted a monthly reporting reinstatement option which allowed service continuation with full benefits, rather than temporary service termination, and acceptance of participants' monthly reports after the due date; (5) states would require amendments to the Food Stamp Act to exclude participants applying for recertification from the act's proration provisions; (6) state-caused interruptions in Wisconsin resulted from improper implementation of the monthly reporting reinstatement option, untimely processing of participants' documents and forms, and inadequate automation capability; (7) Wisconsin's plans for awareness training for caseworkers and computer programming changes should help to reduce those errors; and (8) the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has not determined why 13 other states have not adopted the monthly reporting reinstatement option.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This provision was addressed in H.R. 410, but was subsequently deleted in conference.

    Matter: To ensure full monthly benefits to participants who file recertification applications up to 1 month late, Congress may want to consider amending the proration provisions of the Food Stamp Act to exclude such participants.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Regional offices contacted 15 state agencies to encourage adoption of the reinstatement option. Five of the 15 agencies are considering adoption of the reinstatement option. Of the remaining state agencies, six are not adopting it because they want to stay consistent with the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program, and four are not because of other reasons, which USDA believes are valid.

    Recommendation: To promote equitable benefits in all states, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to: (1) contact those states that have not adopted the monthly reporting reinstatement option; (2) determine their capability to adopt the option; (3) encourage its adoption where practicable; and (4) if adopted, review the option to ensure its implementation is proper.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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