Food Stamp Program:

Progress and Problems in Using 75-Percent Funding for Automation

RCED-88-58: Published: Apr 28, 1988. Publicly Released: Jun 2, 1988.

Additional Materials:


John W. Harman
(202) 512-5138


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service's (FNS) Food Stamp Program to determine: (1) what state information retrieval systems FNS had approved for 75-percent funding from fiscal year (FY) 1981 through FY 1986; and (2) whether the approved systems or projects complied with legislative mandates and met general functional requirements.

GAO found that: (1) FNS approved 51 requests, totalling $66 million, from 33 states from FY 1981 through FY 1986; (2) FNS policy and approval of requests from 17 state agencies differed from requirements; (3) FNS policy allowed funding for all planning, design, development, or installation of the systems at the 75-percent level when the system was the state's initial attempt, or an upgrade or modification of existing systems for the Food Stamp Program; (4) USDA regulations allowed 75-percent funding to develop automated program systems that did not achieve integration with the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program, as mandated; (5) FNS approved funding for systems not expressly permitted in USDA regulations because it believed that they would eventually become part of the total automated system; and (6) there were no requirements for documenting system compliance.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In the 1990 farm bill, Congress required USDA to review the regulations and standards for the approval of an automated system. However, Congress did not clarify its own current position on how the 75-percent funding is to be used. Congress has considered the recommendation, but has chosen a different course of action.

    Matter: Since 1980, USDA has used 75-percent federal matching funds to automate the Food Stamp Program in a manner allowed by the act but which departed significantly from what was envisioned in the legislative history. Congress may wish to consider expressing its current position on the manner in which 75-percent funding is being used.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Proposed rules were published August 8, 1988. USDA provided funding approved guidance on October 13, 1988. A final rule was published on February 7, 1990.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to monitor and enforce regulations requiring that automated systems approved for 75-percent funding be for total Food Stamp Program certification or issuance, reconciliation, and reporting systems only.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FNS Handbook 901, issued on May 15, 1992, incorporates requirements for states to fully document how the functional standards will be included in the automated system.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that the Food Stamp Program's automated systems development approved for 75-percent federal funding meets the requirements set forth in USDA regulations, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to: (1) amend Service Handbook 151, Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Advance Planning Document Handbook for state agencies, to direct that state agency requests for 75-percent funding fully describe in their planning documents how the required program functional standards will be incorporated into the proposed automated Food Stamp Program system; (2) amend Service Handbook 103 to direct regional Food Stamp Program personnel to document their determination that each of the required program functional standards are met prior to approving requests for 75-percent funding; and (3) direct regional office personnel to implement the state agency request file records control system described in Service Handbook 103 to maintain a planning document control log and numbering system for related amendments and correspondence pertaining to each state agency's request for federal funding.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Dec 23, 2020

Dec 15, 2020

Oct 13, 2020

Oct 7, 2020

Sep 30, 2020

Sep 29, 2020

Sep 28, 2020

Sep 14, 2020

Sep 9, 2020

Sep 8, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here