Throughout my career in public service, I have had to make a lot of difficult decisions. The choices often resulted in a mixed bag of results; some good would be accomplished, but with some tough pills to swallow. It is rare in my experience that decisions are win-win – but that doesn’t mean we stop trying.
This year, the farm bill, which governs programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), is up for renewal. It is a key opportunity to improve how the country administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a critical tool for combatting poverty and food insecurity. As this renewal only happens twice a decade, we should be asking ourselves: What can we do to maintain a high level of integrity in SNAP while reducing unnecessary requirements, and overcome obstacles to efficiency to ensure eligible people enroll? How can we achieve a win-win?
As we look at the current human services landscape, we know that families and the system are under a lot of stress. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been intense financial strain on millions of Americans. And while our government stepped in and up to provide extra support, most of that support has ended over the past few months. Changes in the human services world often result in increased calls from residents, more churn on and off programs, and increased frustration for people who sometimes have few good options. And, unfortunately, this comes at a time when state and county departments of human services across the country are swamped, feeling the pain of high caseloads and staffing shortages.
We should ask ourselves: Is there a pathway forward for a win for families and a win for the agencies working hard to serve them?
To that end, Benefits Data Trust (BDT) has released our comments on the farm bill renewal, which we recently shared with Congress. We focused on leveraging data sharing and streamlining processes to improve a person’s experience applying and recertifying, while also addressing the pressure state and county administrators are feeling. I invite you to review these recommendations, share them widely, and reach out to us if you have questions about how they will improve SNAP. Each of us can support efforts to increase efficiency for a program that is vital to so many in our country.
Over the next four weeks, BDT will release a series of blog posts that dive into a few of our farm bill recommendations – using our on-the-ground experience with states, higher education and healthcare institutions, and what we learn from the individuals and families we talk with every day – to demonstrate what our recommended changes could mean for administrators and program participants alike.
Easy wins and easy decisions are rare, but we must persevere. We need to dig in, make hard choices, and keep trying to improve.
See more in our Farm Bill SNAP Solutions series: