GAO Audit of the Food Stamp Program

T-RCED-90-10: Published: Oct 31, 1989. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Food and Nutrition Service's (FNS) administration of the Food Stamp Program, focusing on: (1) food stamp automation; (2) alternatives for program eligibility; and (3) ways to improve benefit opportunities for eligible participants. GAO found that: (1) although food stamp automation improved client interviews and case action notification, and identified or avoided some program errors, it did not always result in such needed administrative improvements as reductions in case processing time or staff requirements, or more timely eligibility determinations; (2) although legislation provided that certain states could obtain 75-percent federal funding for implementing their automated systems, FNS approved the funding for system upgrades and sometimes approved funding more than once per state; (3) FNS based benefits on household size, income, and nutritional needs, and favored single-person households over others; (4) alternative definitions grouping more people together in a single household would restrict eligibility and reduce benefit payments, while those allowing more separate households would expand eligibility and increase payments; (5) the current definition included provisions giving parents and adult children or siblings a disincentive to share housing; (6) 87 percent of benefit interruptions resulted from changes in household eligibility status, while 13 percent were due to state or participant procedural noncompliance; and (7) 56 percent of the nonparticipants cited a lack of desire for benefits or lack of program information, but reasons for nonparticipation varied on household characteristics.

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