USDA is serious about good stewardship of tax payer dollars and is doing its part to support the Obama Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste. That means, among other things, making sure Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are used by recipients and retailers the way the program was intended.
USDA has just issued a final regulation that updates the legal definition of trafficking. Put simply, recipients of SNAP benefits can now be kicked out of the program for indirectly obtaining cash for benefits. This includes activities like so-called “water dumping,” which involves the purchasing of beverages in deposit containers, wasting the contents, and returning the containers for the cash deposit. Such actions undermine this important program and will not be tolerated.
This regulation is but one of many steps being taken to maintain SNAP program integrity and allow States to move swiftly to punish recipients who violate the rules. Make no mistake, incidences of fraud in SNAP remain very low, but we must continue to take steps to prevent and address any level of abuse in the program.
In addition to the trafficking rule, we’re seeking comments from the public on a new proposal that would authorize USDA to immediately suspend retailers suspected of flagrant trafficking violations from receiving SNAP payments. If USDA determines that a retailer is a flagrant trafficker, we would immediately suspend its redemptions concurrently with notification of charges thereby allowing us to hold funds that might ultimately be forfeited by the store if the disqualification is upheld.
As with recipient fraud, incidences of retailer abuse in SNAP are very low. The vast majority of businesses that participate in SNAP do play by the rules. But USDA continues to strengthen sanctions against the few who try to take advantage of the program. Last year, USDA permanently disqualified 1,387 stores for trafficking in SNAP benefits.
For more information about what USDA is doing to combat fraud in SNAP, and how to personally help us in our efforts, please visit our Stop SNAP fraud website. To comment on the proposed regulation, please visit Regulations.gov.