Massachusetts officials tackling SNAP problems with plan including adding case managers, clearing backlog, strengthening ombudsman office

June 08, 2015

Over the past year nearly 90,000 Massachusetts residents, 10% of the total number of people receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, were cut from the program, largely as a result of an expanded caseload and business model changes that produced incorrect eligibility data and computer and phone system breakdowns. The business model was put in place in 2014 to address a claim from the federal government that the state overpaid $30 million in SNAP benefits between 2009 and 2011 by not properly reviewing client eligibility. It changed how clients interacted with DTA, moved a lot of transactions online and proved to confuse many elderly, disabled and low-income SNAP clients as well as overwhelmed staff. Following questioning by legislators about poor service to SNAP clients and a request from USDA's Northeast Regional Office for a corrective action plan. In April, Secretary of HHS Marylou Sudders outlined the plan in a letter to USDA regional officials. The plan includes:

  • Restructuring DTA;
  • Adding and training SNAP case managers;
  • Using overtime to catch up with backlogs;
  • Strengthening the ombudsman's office to resolve complaints;
  • Hiring a consultant to assess program delivery and customer service;
  • Expanding simplified reporting for eligible clients;
  • Conducting follow-up surveys with clients whose cases had closed;
  • Creating an agency scorecard;
  • Enhancing telephone assistance lines; and
  • Exchanging modernization best practices with other states.