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Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Subcommittee Chairman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson: Nutrition Subcommittee: The Next Farm Bill: SNAP Technology and Modernization

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and welcome to today’s Nutrition Subcommittee hearing on SNAP technology and modernization. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to be here, particularly our four witnesses.

As many of you know, our committee has conducted a thorough review of SNAP over the past two years. I want to take a moment to share why this was done and what we hope to achieve as we move to farm bill reauthorization.

First, this program touches more than 42 million Americans each month – it is the largest domestic hunger safety net program in the country. So we have a responsibility to ensure we evaluate how this anti-poverty program is serving those it intends to help.

Second, we need to get the policy right. As we approach the upcoming farm bill it is critical we understand opportunities to amend and improve the program to properly account for the changes that come with our evolving, technological world. This hearing’s purpose is to discuss technology and modernization of SNAP, including areas to enhance program integrity, streamline delivery of services, improve the customer experience and ease administrative burdens. 

Today we will hear about two distinct systems SNAP state agencies utilize to determine program eligibility and issue benefits. On the issuance side, Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, is an electronic system that allows a recipient to authorize transfer of their government benefits from a federal account to a retailer account to pay for products received. It is important to note that the transition to EBT, completed in 2004, represented a tremendous step forward in improving the program’s integrity, administrative efficiency, and customer service. 

Prior to issuing benefits to households, state agencies determine whether households qualify for the program. To qualify for SNAP, applicants must meet the eligibility and income requirements mandated by Congress, which are tied to the federal poverty level. New eligibility systems are rules-based, with SNAP law, regulations, and policy built in, generating eligibility calculations using program rules when workers enter households’ data. Most states also rely on integrated eligibility systems which determine eligibility for SNAP along with other benefits programs, such as Medicaid and TANF. 

In addition to EBT and eligibility system modernizations, many states and counties are working on improving the experience of SNAP households through enhancements to their business processes and customer-facing technology. These and other technology initiatives, combined with data-driven business process improvements, can enhance administrative efficiency at the state level while making the process of applying for SNAP benefits more streamlined for households in need. 

I want to thank all of our witnesses for sharing their time and expertise. I look forward to hearing from experts in EBT, eligibility systems, and customer-centric business processes and technology applications, and about how the evolution and innovation within these arenas helps to improve the efficacy of this important program.

I now recognize Mr. McGovern for any opening comments he would like to make.