USDA Updates Technology Policy to Enhance SNAP Administration

The USDA recently updated its policy on how states can leverage modern technologies when administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently updated its policy on how states can leverage modern technologies when administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Government officials say this will empower states to run their program with more efficiency and accuracy. This is great news for state SNAP administrators. As a result, it can help states reduce their administrative burden and ease the efforts of SNAP applicants and recipients.

How States can Leverage Technologies

The USDA announcement clarifies how states can use identity and income verification tools. These updated policies provide:

  • Clarification on how to verify income through third parties. State agencies have to verify household income during SNAP certification to provide the right amount of benefits. Now, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is providing guidance on aligning SNAP verification policy with technologies that many state agencies and employers use.
  • The option to use technology to verify applicants’ identity. Currently, the government requires state agencies to verify applicants’ identity and other critical information before enrolling them in the program. Many states require applicants to do this in-person, by fax or through the mail. Now, states will be able to use the same secure verification solutions used by banks and other government programs.

How the Technologies Work

Public assistance programs like SNAP use The Work Number® from Equifax to instantly verify employment and income. Typically, they perform this step before providing a person benefits. In 2018, programs completed over 123 million instant verifications. And 40 million of those verifications were used to support eligibility for government benefits. 

The Work Number provides up-to-date employment and income verifications from millions of employment records contributed by tens of thousands of employers. In fact, the list includes 82% of the Fortune 500, thousands of small regional and local employers, and the majority of federal government civilian employers. Most importantly, The Work Number updates the data each time a contributing employer processes payroll. Therefore, caseworkers can always have the latest information at their fingertips.

Benefits of The Work Number

The benefits of this technology include:

  • Improved productivity through the use of a single source for multi-data sets to verify income and employment, identity, address, financial assets, etc. 
  • Reduced cycle-times (eligibility decisioning) via rapid delivery of increased employer record volumes.
  • Compliance with individual program requirements.

As USDA's updated guidance says, "[w]hile information from third party payroll sources can be used to verify household provided informationthe State agency cannot take action on a case based solely on this information as it is not provided by a primary source.  

The only exception to this policy is if an employer uses the third party payroll source as its legal agent to provide payroll services or respond to inquiries about employee records. In those circumstances, the State agency could consider information received from the third party payroll source the same as if obtained from the primary source." The employer provides all information -- without modification -- within The Work Number.

When providing information to a credentialed verifier, such as a state SNAP agency, from The Work Number in response to an inquiry, Equifax is acting as an agent of that employer as it pertains to the verification of employee income and employment data for the records returned. This process is supported by, and compliant with, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.). Learn more or request a savings assessment on automating eligibility verifications based on your specific program requirements.