Calling State SNAP Agencies: Join New Cohort to Implement Telephonic Signatures

By: Jillian Humphries, Policy Manager

Webinar Recording
Informational Session: State Agency Cohort to Implement SNAP Telephonic Signatures
Learn about this opportunity to participate in a new learning cohort focused on adopting telephonic signatures in the application process.

I am excited to share that Benefits Data Trust (BDT) is inviting SNAP state agencies to participate in a new learning cohort focused on adopting telephonic signatures in the application process.  

Telephonic signatures are currently utilized by just under half of states nationwide for SNAP applications. Federal guidance issued last year has led to an easier and lower-cost way of implementing telephonic signature, making it possible for more states to adopt this solution, which reduces administrative burden and more quickly gets assistance to eligible households.

Beginning early next year BDT will lead five to eight states in a 10-month collaborative learning cohort focused on adopting SNAP telephonic signature. There is no cost for states to participate in the collaborative, and funding is available for SNAP state agencies to help offset administrative costs they may incur (amount determined based on needs and number of participating states).

Read on and watch the recording above for more information about the cohort and how to get involved. To apply to participate in the cohort, submit your application by November 17, 2023.

Why is telephonic signature important right now? 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state government agencies temporarily expanded and modified many programs, including SNAP and Medicaid, to provide critical assistance to families nationwide. With the end of the federal public health emergency (PHE) declaration and other provisions earlier this year, many temporary changes have expired. Now, millions of people are losing or facing reduced food assistance and health insurance amid ongoing inflation, while government agencies face massive caseloads amid staffing shortages.  

To meet the urgent demands of this moment, BDT sought and received philanthropic funding to assist states to reduce administrative burdens on their agencies and streamline access to SNAP and Medicaid for millions of eligible people through the implementation of SNAP telephonic signatures. In August 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued guidance on a waiver that eliminates a significant technological barrier to the adoption of SNAP telephonic signatures.  

Applying for SNAP by phone is an important pathway for many low-income families and the SNAP outreach partners that support them. Telephonic signature allows for applications to be signed by phone through verbal attestation. 

Benefits of adopting telephonic signature policies include:  

  • A More Efficient Application Process 

    Without a telephonic signature option, phone applications require additional steps to secure a “wet signature,” i.e., mailing the application to the applicant for them to physically sign and return it. This requirement adds additional work for SNAP agency staff and prevents people who are eligible from efficiently accessing an important nutritional benefit.  

  • Opportunities for Coordinated Renewals with Medicaid 

    States can utilize SNAP data to facilitate Medicaid renewals. In addition, there are state options available that allow states to automatically enroll and/or renew individuals in Medicaid based on SNAP status.  

  • Ability for Community Partners to Provide Application Assistance:  

    Phone-based outreach and application assistance by trusted community partners is an effective way to reach communities historically disconnected from the benefits system, such as immigrant families.  

What are the components of the cohort? 

Drawing on BDT’s expertise in providing technical assistance to dozens of government state agencies, this project will create a cohort of SNAP state agencies to learn about and implement a telephonic signature solution that is right for them.  

Over 10 months, BDT will:   

  • Lead a cohort of five to eight states to design and implement SNAP telephonic signature solutions. BDT’s technical assistance will include monthly virtual cohort convenings covering issues of broad relevance as well as quarterly 1:1 sessions tailored to individual state needs. BDT will assist with writing and obtaining approval for telephonic signature waivers, as needed.  
  • Work with the cohort states to create pathways to share the SNAP data with Medicaid and establish relevant and feasible evaluative measures.   

What is expected from state agency participants?  

  • Be able to engage in all of the technical assistance activities listed above, including monthly virtual cohort convenings and quarterly 1:1 calls.  
  • Have a core team (comprising one executive sponsor and one or two project leads) identified to lead this work.  
  • Secure agency director’s approval and sign off. 
  • Option to participate in BDT’s one-day on-site visit to agency offices during the implementation phase.  
  • Collaborate with BDT on evaluating, documenting, and disseminating the impact of telephonic signatures on both SNAP and Medicaid as part of the proposed project.

Next Steps 

  • Apply here by November 17 to participate in the cohort.
  • Applicants will be notified about next steps by November 28, 2023.