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Oct 3 -- The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Department of Agriculture (USDA), announces an interim final rule--Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Requirement for Interstate Data Matching To Prevent Duplicate Issuances--effective December 2, 2022. FNS invites comments by the same date on the interim final rule and the associated proposed data collection from states and individuals.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an interstate data system called the National Accuracy Clearinghouse (NAC) to prevent issuance of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to an individual by more than one State agency simultaneously (also known as interstate duplicate participation). This interim final rule requires SNAP State agencies to provide information to the NAC regarding individuals receiving SNAP benefits in their States in order to ensure they are not already receiving benefits in another State. It also requires State agencies to take appropriate action with respect to each indication from the NAC that an individual may already be receiving SNAP benefits from another State agency. This rule aims to enhance Program integrity by reducing the risk of improper payments and improve customer service by incorporating best practices and lessons learned from the NAC pilot to require that State agencies take appropriate and timely action to resolve NAC matches. This rule also establishes safeguards to ensure households receive benefits for which they are eligible and are not incorrectly removed from the Program.

This rule is effective December 2, 2022. The USDA (or Department) intends to implement this nationwide NAC matching solution using a phased approach that will allow all State agencies to onboard over a period of 5 years. State agencies must comply with the provisions of this interim final rule no later than October 4, 2027.

Comment date: To be considered, written comments on this interim final rule must be received on or before December 2, 2022. The Department will issue a final rule after considering public comments and obtaining additional information during the initial implementation.

This interim final rule incorporates best practices and lessons learned from the NAC pilot. The NAC pilot is a shared data clearinghouse that allows States to check whether a SNAP applicant is receiving SNAP benefits in another pilot State in real or near-real time. Five States participate in the NAC pilot: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The NAC pilot program began exploring the prevalence of duplicate participation and the feasibility of a system to prevent it in July 2013. NAC pilot data matching operations began in June 2014 and continue today in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi.

In the NAC pilot, the State agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi each submit a file daily of its entire SNAP caseload, which is integrated into a list of all SNAP participants receiving benefits in the participating States. State agencies query the system when they receive SNAP applications or add new members to a household. State agencies then check the new individuals against the NAC pilot's list of active SNAP participants in other States. If an applicant is identified as receiving benefits in another NAC pilot State, that State is contacted by the matching State agency responsible for administering SNAP benefits to close the individual's case. Once the applicant's out-of-State case is closed, the State receiving the application can move forward with the certification process. If the applicant is checked against the NAC pilot's list of active SNAP participants in other States and the applicant is not identified as receiving SNAP benefits elsewhere, then the State proceeds with the certification process.

In addition to screening applicants, the NAC pilot also notifies State agencies when an active member of its caseload is simultaneously active in another State. Upon receiving this information, NAC pilot States issue a Request for Contact to the individual's household, informing the household of the match and requesting proof of residency and proof of closure of the out-of-state case identified by the match.

Regulations at § 273.12(c)(9) describe how State agencies must respond to information like a NAC pilot data match received during the certification period. The existing regulations prevent States from acting on NAC data matches before their next scheduled contact with the household, so States participating in the NAC pilot operate under an administrative waiver (§ 272.3(c); 17(b)(1) of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008). The waiver allows the State to issue a Request for Contact to the household upon receiving a pilot NAC data match regarding an active member of its caseload.

In lieu of a Request for Contact, the interim final rule will instead use a notice of match results or, if there is no possibility of adverse action, verbally request verification of information in the State with the new household, recertifying household, or when there is a newly added household member, and note that communication in the casefile; the notice of match results will serve the same purpose as a Request for Contact. If an individual is indicated in a positive match during the certification period, the State agency will instead issue a combined notice of match results and notice of adverse action. Each of these activities serve similar purposes and only vary depending on when the match is discovered. For example, a combined notice of match results and notice of adverse action could not be issued to an individual during the application or recertifying process, because there is not yet an active case for the State to take adverse action upon. Therefore, when a notice is sent for a match discovered during application, recertification, or for a newly added household member the activity will be known as notice of match results. When a notice is sent for a match discovered during the certification period, the activity will be known as a combined notice of match results and notice of adverse action.

FNS estimates a total annual number of 409,709.52 combined notice of match results and notice of adverse action. This estimate is based on the NAC pilot evaluation estimates of 1.355% of initial applications for that year resulting in a positive match.

National Accuracy Clearinghouse (pilot states) https://www.nationalaccuracyclearinghouse.com/
National Accuracy Clearinghouse Pilot Evaluation Final Report (Oct 2015) https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/nac-evaluation-final-report
NAC pilot final report press release (Aug 2016) https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/usda-funded-report-estimates-the-national-accuracy-clearinghouse-could-save-states-nearly-200-million-annually-by-preventing-duplicate-snap-payments-if-used-nationwide-300310725.html
FNS NAC: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/nac
FNS writes on Oct 5: "The NAC ICR is going through internal review processes and will be available in the coming months. We will be happy to share the document as soon as is available." .

FRN interim final rule: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-21011 [28 pages]

Nov 15 -- FNS delays effective date of interim final rule until December 6, 2022. https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-24804

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