WASHINGTON — In the name of efficiency and improved customer service, the government has issued new guidance for the use of private sector staff for some aspects of the federal food aid program.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will still require families to be certified to receive benefits by a state civil servant, but basic case-specific information may now be provided by contracted private-sector staff if approved by the Food and Nutrition Service (F.N.S.). Previously SNAP limited private sector contractors to a limited set of activities.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program until October 2008, under the F.N.S. umbrella. The department said the new guidance increases flexibility while holding states accountable for ensuring eligible people have access to food benefits as they move toward self-sufficiency. The government also said the change will increase efficiency by aligning service delivery and opening lines of communication across programs. Finally, the U.S.D.A. said the change will be a catalyst for innovation and predicted improved use of technology.
|Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue|
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue called the guideline “a positive step toward enhancing customer service and being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Michigan, followed by Louisiana, were the first states to receive approval to expand use of private sector staff for basic SNAP casework, and the new U.S.D.A. guidance indicates similar state requests will be considered.
|Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan|