Feds issue rules to fight food stamp fraud

The Obama administration is cracking down on fraud in the federal food stamp program by letting states deny some participants' suspicious requests.

A regulation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will allow states to deny repeated requests for replacement cards distributed under the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

That should help make it harder for people to obtain multiple Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards from the government, which are loaded with money to buy food, and sell them for cash.

“Current regulations do not allow State agencies to require clients requesting multiple replacement cards to contact the agency and provide an explanation before a new card is issued, even though such requests may indicate fraudulent activity," the USDA explained.

Now, states can refuse to issue replacement cards until the SNAP recipient gets in touch with them. States will also be required to provide special protections for the homeless, elderly, people with disabilities and others who may commonly need replacement cards. 

In a White House blog post when the regulation was proposed last year, USDA undersecretary Kevin Concannon said that the policy would also help those people who have legitimate problems using their cards.

By having to contact a state agency, officials would know when SNAP participants needed any special training or instruction, he said.

“To be clear, we expect most requests for replacement cards to be legitimate ones,” he said. "However, it’s important that we take a closer look at those cases in which cards are replaced at an excessive rate.”