Enhancing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Certification: SNAP Modernization Efforts: Interim Report – Volume 1


Enhancing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Certification: SNAP Modernization Efforts: Interim Report – Volume 1

Abstract

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) serves as a basic nutritional safety net for many low-income individuals and families as well as a critical support for households transitioning to self-sufficiency. Over the past decade, an array of federal options and state initiatives have emerged to increase accessibly and efficiency. The report describes the results of a national survey on state modernization efforts that were conducted in late 2008. It focuses not only on technological innovations but also on policy and organizational changes that affect the way SNAP is delivered to clients.

The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the full report in PDF format.

Chapter 1: Introduction

In October 2006, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) contracted with The Urban Institute (UI) to conduct a comprehensive study of state efforts to modernize the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.7 The study focuses on four types of modernization efforts: (1) policy changes to modernize SNAP application, case management, and recertification procedures; (2) reengineering of administrative functions; (3) increased or enhanced use of technology; and (4) partnering arrangements with businesses and nonprofit organizations

To document key features and outcomes associated with SNAP modernization, this threeyear study comprises the following three data collection activities: initial site visits to four states; a national survey of all states,8 including a sample of local offices as well as partner organizations; and extensive case studies in 14 states. This interim report presents the findings from phase two of the project, the national survey, conducted from May 2008 to December 2008.

A. Study Objectives

The goals of this study are to develop a comprehensive, national inventory of SNAP modernization efforts, both large and small, undertaken in all the states; identify successful modernization efforts across the country that can potentially be replicated; and help avoid implementation pitfalls among states currently planning similar kinds of modernization initiatives. The study examines the effects of these modernization efforts on four types of outcomes: program access, administrative cost, program integrity, and customer service. The study has seven objectives, described below.9

Objective 1: Provide a national description and comparison of state efforts to modernize SNAP

The survey is the basis for the project’s national description and comparisons across states. The survey results document the initiatives undertaken by each state and the geographical scope of the initiatives within the states. The results of the county-level and partner surveys provide additional information about “on the ground” experiences related to modernization activities. An overview of state efforts is provided in chapter 4, section A.

Objective 2: Describe the factors that drive states to modernize their SNAP services

The surveys asked state and local officials about the reasons for implementing various modernization efforts. The surveys also inquired about the roles of governors, legislators, and local officials in initiating or resisting state modernization efforts, as well as agency budgets, the economic environment, and characteristics of SNAP participants. See chapter 4, section A.

Objective 3: Describe and compare the policy changes pursued as a part of SNAP modernization

State and local officials were asked about a limited number of policy options in the survey, including those concerning customer access and combined application programs (CAPs). The survey did not ask for detail about waivers requested and received or other policy options already documented by FNS; however, a general discussion of the range of state options and policy waivers available to states is provided in the report. State administrators, local administrators, and partners were also given the opportunity to suggest legislative or regulatory changes related to their experiences with modernization efforts. See chapter 4, section B.

Objective 4: Identify the ways that states reengineer administrative structure and organizational roles

The state and local surveys asked about organizational mergers, consolidation, and office closings at state and local levels of SNAP administration and about the transfer of functions, in either direction, between SNAP agencies and other governmental entities. See chapter 4, section C.

Objective 5: Describe and compare technology initiatives made to support SNAP modernization

The three surveys included a section on technological innovations, including computer system upgrades or modifications, document management, information sharing, application access and submission, reporting changes, recertification, and expanded uses of EBT. Three changes made possible by new technology—call centers, electronic applications, and biometric identification— were covered in detail in separate sections of the survey. See chapter 4, section D.

Objective 6: Describe and compare the nonprofit community organizations that states partner with to support SNAP modernization

Most of the 150 partner organizations surveyed were nonprofit community or faith-based organizations. As part of their surveys, state and local program administrators were asked to identify the types of nonprofits with whom they have partnered on modernization initiatives. A series of questions in the partner survey asked representatives of these organizations about their structure, services, funding, and clientele. See chapter 4, section E.

Objective 7: Document the relationships among SNAP modernization initiatives, stakeholder satisfaction, and program outcomes

State SNAP administrators, local administrators, and partner organizations were asked about their overall opinions on the impacts of modernization efforts, and about the effects of specific categories of initiatives, such as call centers and information sharing. See chapter 6.

(End of excerpt. The full report is available in PDF format.)

Appendix

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