WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has announced steps it says will reduce fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, said the new steps will give states needed tools to contact households to examine excessive requests for replacement benefit cards.
“Current law lacks needed flexibility for states to contact households for information about requests for multiple replacements, which in some cases may indicate fraudulent activity,” Mr. Concannon said. “There are many legitimate reasons for replacing cards and the vast majority of recipients follow the rules. But we are concerned that a few bad actors are using replacement cards to exchange SNAP benefits for cash, commonly referred to as trafficking.” Trafficking is illegal, punishable by disqualification from the program, fines, and even criminal prosecution. Mr. Concannon said anti-fraud activity has reduced SNAP trafficking rates to 1% from 4% over the past 15 years.
“Most recently, the U.S.D.A. sent letters to the c.e.o.s of Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Twitter to reiterate the need to help prevent the illegal sale or purchase of SNAP benefits on their web sites,” the U.S.D.A. said. “The proposed rule also codifies current policy that such attempted sales are trafficking violations.”
SNAP is the department’s largest food assistance program, supplementing the monthly food budget of more than 46 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children and more than 40% of recipients live in households with earnings.