The U.S. House and Senate are engaged in conference action to finalize a farm bill. U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., is leading the charge to include a provision that gives states the freedom and flexibility to use contracted services to administer parts of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program.
This common-sense change would modernize language that has existed since 1977 when technology and private-sector capacity and resources were very different.
Rep. Hartzler’s proposal would empower states with the freedom to contract with private sector for-profit and nonprofit entities. This initiative has received broad, bipartisan support from organizations like the American Public Human Services Association, which represents state and local human services officials around the country. We believe states need this flexibility for efficiency, to speed up application processing, and to ensure better program accountability.
Many states are grappling with meeting significant federal and state administrative expectations in SNAP and would like to have the option not only to use vendors but also to bring back former experienced employees to help perform eligibility functions in SNAP as they already can in a number of other programs.
For example, no similar prohibition exists in the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program, enacted in 1997. A number of CHIP programs in both Republican- and Democrat-led states have successfully used contractor staff to efficiently and effectively operate the program without growing the number of, or overwhelming existing, government employees.
Rep. Hartzler should be commended for pursuing common-sense reforms to SNAP, empowering states with the flexibility to use contractors to handle administrative functions under state supervision or to complement the work of their existing staff. We ask that Congress give states this flexibility to manage programs in the way they think best meets the needs of their citizens.
Steve Corsi • Jefferson City
Acting director, Missouri Department of Social Services
Russell Sykes • New York
Former deputy commissioner, New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance