WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2010 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA will award $18 million in bonus awards to selected States for outstanding and timely customer service in providing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in fiscal year 2009.
"We are improving the accuracy and efficiency of program delivery while working to deliver on Obama administration efforts to reduce hunger and improve nutrition for people across the country," said Vilsack. "The States we recognize today are leaders in service to their communities and their success in breaking down access barriers and processing applications in a timely manner is an inspiring model for other States."
Each year, USDA awards a total of $12 million in performance bonuses to the eight States with the best and most improved program access index. The program access index is the ratio of participants to the number of persons below 125 percent of poverty and reflects State performance in reaching those eligible for nutrition benefits. USDA also awards $6 million to the six States with the highest rate of timely processed applications, an important indicator of customer service in administering the Program.
"Improving access and customer service in SNAP is critically important, especially for those who have recently lost their jobs or are struggling to find work," noted Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.
States recognized this year are:
Best Program Access Index:
- Maine $875,722
- Oregon $2,458,679
- District of Columbia $540,954
- Vermont $375,889
- Tennessee $3,925,070
- Alaska $295,630
Most Improved Program Access Index:
- Vermont see 'best' above
- Washington $3,026,355
- Oregon see 'best' above
- Rhode Island $501,701
Best Application Processing Timeliness:
- District of Columbia $358,809
- West Virginia $731,426
- Kentucky $1,544,614
- Massachusetts $1,636,834
- South Dakota $241,318
- Louisiana $1,486,999
Massachusetts earned a timeliness bonus for the seventh consecutive year. Louisiana earned a timeliness bonus for the third consecutive year. The District of Columbia earned a timeliness bonus for the second consecutive year. Tennessee earned a program access index bonus for the fifth consecutive year. Oregon earned a program access index bonus for the fourth consecutive year.
In June 2010, SNAP awarded $30 million to States for excellence and improvement in exceptional service and program integrity. Awardees included Florida, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Delaware, Nebraska, Washington, Georgia, Ohio, Maine, Guam, and New Hampshire.
Working in collaboration with USDA, State agencies continue to enhance SNAP program integrity even as demand has increased in response to national economic conditions. Each State agency is responsible for monitoring and improving its administration of SNAP with the SNAP quality control system determining the accuracy of the eligibility decision and the benefits authorized. The national average level of program payment accuracy for FY 2009 is 95.64 percent, the sixth consecutive year the program has achieved a historically high rate. For the second straight year, the national negative error rate (a measure of denials, terminations and suspensions) also improved.
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs. These programs serve one in four Americans over the course of a year and work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. SNAP, the largest of these programs, helps nearly 41.3 million Americans each month put healthy food on the table. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.