More than 2 months after US gov. tells Georgia to fix issues with SNAP program still underperforming

ATLANTA — In December, Channel 2 Action News reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had told Georgia officials it needed to make changes to how it was running its food stamp program, citing delay and error rates that put it out of federal compliance.

More than two months later, USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack sent another letter to Gov. Brian Kemp that improvements are still needed with the program.

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal effort to feed low-income Americans, but is managed individually by state governments.

In November, Georgia officials were told they had about a month to create a plan to address the concerns. In December, the plan was submitted, with state officials saying part of the issue was down to staffing amid Georgia’s Medicaid unwinding process.

The November letter to state officials said Georgia was “severely” out of compliance with the federal program’s requirements due to delays with application processing times resulting in families and households that are in need of SNAP benefits not having access for as long as a month at a time.

While Georgia officials told Channel 2 Action News in December that they were working with federal partners to resolve the SNAP case backlog, they were also trying to ensure the backlog doesn’t happen again once the issues are resolved.

As of Feb. 8, the USDA said changes are still needed, though they’re not the only state facing similar issues. According to the USDA, 47 governmental entities receiving SNAP benefits from the federal government received letters about issues with compliance. Georgia is one of 45 states, in addition to the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.


Errors listed by USDA that remain in need of corrective action were how long it takes applications to be processed, payment errors and case errors.

“We share your desire to build strong service delivery systems that meet the needs of low-income people, and we look forward to continuing our work together to strengthen the nutrition security of American families,” Vilsack said in his letter to Kemp.

There are certain benchmarks required as of a recent federal update. The USDA compared Georgia to the national averages and requirements, showing them as follows:

For application processing, the acceptable rate is 95%, while Georgia’s is currently 84.9%. When it comes to payment errors, the acceptable rates are below 6%, while Georgia’s is currently an overpayment rate of 11.75% and an underpayment rate of 3.23%. USDA said acceptable performance at 6% should be a combination of those two factors, meaning Georgia’s is roughly 15% in error.

Finally, the case error rate is nationally at an average of 44.12%, while Georgia is at 74.82%.

“Timely and accurate SNAP processing is critical to meeting the nutrition needs of low-income families and protecting the integrity of SNAP. Americans in need should have access to essential benefits without unnecessary delays. People should not lose access to food because States are unable to review their applications in a timely fashion. States must deliver benefits in the right amounts, to the right individuals, and in the required periods of time. Both timeliness and program integrity are critical to maintain public confidence in States’ management of SNAP and to maximize the impact of Federal investment in addressing food insecurity,” Vilsack wrote to Kemp on Thursday.

Channel 2 Action News received a response on the state efforts to come back into compliance with federal SNAP requirements.

The state said “Kemp has delivered $7,000 in pay raises to all state employees, including caseworkers, over the last two years, and has proposed another 4% raise for state employees this year.”

A Georgia Department of Human Services spokeswoman provided a list of completed and in-progress efforts to address the areas suggested for improvement in the letters from the USDA, including:


  • Extended certification periods for SNAP renewals with a periodic report at the certification midpoint;
  • Implemented a career path to give Economic Support Specialist (ESS) workers promotions/pay raises over a five-year period;
  • Hired over 1,300 ESS 1 workers since Jan. 2023; and
  • Expanded new hire and post-hire training support for new workers through a new “nesting” program.

In progress:

  • Working with our integrated eligibility system vendor to redesign our task-routing process;
  • Automating repeatable tasks using robotic process automation (RPA) technology;
  • Continuing to hire for entry-level ESS 1 positions; and
  • Voluntary overtime as needed through the end of 2024.

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