Lancaster, PA — Governor Tom Wolf joined the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Wednesday to announce a significant reduction in the error rate of the administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“Today, we are thrilled to announce that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is administering SNAP at historically accurate levels,” said Governor Wolf. “This is an exciting announcement, as it shows success in our work to combat hunger and food insecurity in our state, as well as in our push to create a government that works in Pennsylvania.”
Governor Wolf joined DHS employees and Lancaster-area food security advocates at the Lancaster County Council of Churches to tout the successes of SNAP, a federal program administered by DHS that provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people living in the commonwealth. Nearly 1.9 million Pennsylvanians receive assistance through the SNAP program, a critical safety net for low-income people.
“The department has driven down the error rate by 58% since January — that’s 45% below the national average and the most accurate we’ve been in the 29 years that we have kept records,” said DHS Secretary Ted Dallas. “I want to say thanks to all of the DHS employees whose hard work has helped avoid approximately $35 million in erroneous payments.”
The amount of SNAP benefits received by a household depends on the household’s size, income, and expenses. The federal government tracks the efficiency in which all states deliver this vital benefit, measuring each state’s error rate in determining benefits. The review determines if those benefits were less than or greater than what should have been provided, or if the household was ineligible for any benefits.
Nationally, the SNAP payment error rate was 3.66% in 2014. Since coming into office in January, the Wolf Administration has reduced the food stamp error rate by 58% to 2.01%, which is well below the national average.
Furthermore, this reduction represents the largest percentage decrease in the SNAP error rate in a single year in the 29 years that these records have been kept. The change in error rate is estimated to equal a cost avoidance of nearly $35 million.
“What all of this means is that not only are the people of Pennsylvania who are eligible for assistance the ones receiving it – and in the correct amount — but we are avoiding $35 million in federal costs by appropriately allocating the funds,” said Governor Wolf. “This is no small number, and we are proud of the improvement in accuracy and efficiency this represents in a system that Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable populations truly need.”
In order to accomplish this improved accuracy, DHS implemented a bi-weekly “Knowledge Check” for all staff who work on food stamps to ensure they’re well-versed on those issues that account for the highest number of errors. Supervisors can use the results of to address issues with staff and target training. DHS targeted the areas of the state with higher error rates and provided in-depth coaching and training to staff in those areas. The Department also implemented some IT changes to their system to make it harder for workers to close a case incorrectly.
“I’m thrilled to see waste-reducing efforts like these all across my administration,” Governor Wolf said. “We remain committed to producing more money-saving results like these as we continue our work together.”