Food Stamp Program:

States' Use of Options and Waivers to Improve Program Administration and Promote Access

GAO-02-409: Published: Feb 19, 2002. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 2002.

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To help states administer their Food Stamp Programs, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) offers options and waivers to their program rules and regulations. Almost all states used options or waivers in their food stamp eligibility determination process. More than half of the states chose to make households receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services automatically eligible for food stamps. Thirty-three states exempted some or all vehicles in the determination of food stamp eligibility. Although most states used these options and waivers, they considered them a cumbersome way to increase access to the program for families owning a vehicle. Almost all states used at least one option or waiver to change the reporting methods required of food stamp household earnings. The most frequently used reporting waivers exempted recipients from reporting changes in earned income of $25 or more per month. States used these options and waivers to simplify paperwork requirements for both the food stamp recipient and eligibility worker. Although few states were using the new option to provide food stamp benefits to families leaving TANF, 20 other states planned to implement the option. No state was implementing or planning to implement all aspects of the simplified program option, which allows states to merge their TANF and Food Stamp Program for families receiving both types of assistance. States told GAO that the simplified program option would make administering the programs more difficult because it creates a separate program, covering only a subset of food stamp recipients. However, nine states were using a portion of the simplified program to align their food stamp and TANF work or reporting requirements.

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