For Immediate Release - July 29, 2013

Secretary Polanowicz Announces New Agreement with USDA to Enhance SNAP Fraud Investigations to Protect Taxpayer Resources

Agreement enhances DTA program integrity efforts in conjunction with 100-Day ‘Bridge to Stability’ action plan

BOSTON — Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary John Polanowicz today joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA-FNS) Northeast Regional Administrator James Arena-DeRosa to announce a new agreement that will allow the state to conduct investigations with law enforcement into possible SNAP trafficking fraud.

“This agreement will enhance our ability to conduct investigations into retailer SNAP trafficking and other violations,” said Secretary Polanowicz. “This builds on our growing relationship with law enforcement and the USDA to help prevent EBT fraud and abuse, while protecting benefits for those who truly need them.”

The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) entered into a State Law Enforcement Bureau (SLEB) agreement with the USDA-FNS. The SLEB agreement will enable the Commonwealth to utilize state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate and pursue SNAP EBT fraud and abuse, including SNAP trafficking. Under the agreement, DTA has the authority to conduct investigations into possible SNAP fraud and Massachusetts law enforcement will be able to obtain EBT benefits from USDA-FNS for purposes of undercover investigations.

“We are pleased to be working with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance and Law Enforcement Officials toward the common goal of ensuring that taxpayers' dollars are used for the intended purpose of providing healthy foods to people in need,” said USDA-FNS Northeast Regional Administrator James Arena-DeRosa. “Under this partnership, USDA will share its extensive experience in monitoring retailer fraud to help state law enforcement officials develop a more robust set of tools to identify suspicious activity and improve tactics which will assist in the apprehending and prosecution of both recipients and retailers who attempt to commit SNAP fraud.”

Currently, the DTA only has the ability to conduct administrative investigations of suspected recipient trafficking cases. The agreement allows DTA to pursue, through local law enforcement, investigations of vendor trafficking.

“This agreement adds one more tool in the program integrity toolbox,” said DTA Commissioner Stacey Monahan. “This partnership will complement the numerous enhancements that are happening as part of our 100-day action plan.”

DTA’s 100-day plan is resulting in enhanced program integrity and improved services for clients. The plan incorporates established best practices, brings increased oversight and training to DTA, and moves forward with technological enhancements to address issues raised by the state Legislature, the offices of the Inspector General and the State Auditor and federal regulators. The plan also takes proactive steps to prevent fraud and abuse, block EBT card usage at prohibited establishments and increase investigation and enforcement of SNAP trafficking.

In April, DTA announced a new partnership with the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs Association. The partnership will increase data sharing, while giving local police the tools they need to ensure that clients and retailers are abiding by the law. Under the new agreement, DTA will share with local law enforcement data gathered from its bi-weekly monitoring of ATM and point of sale withdrawals, which identify any purchases made at prohibited establishments, so they can investigate and prevent the sale of prohibited items and the use of EBT cards at prohibited establishments. Commissioner Monahan attended the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs Association’s monthly meeting in June to discuss ways to enhance the partnership.

Commissioner Monahan also completed a statewide "Bridge to Stability" listening tour to gain public input on strengthening client services. Commissioner Monahan held 29 listening sessions across the Commonwealth, with more than 500 attendees and resulting in hundreds of comments and questions.

DTA serves one in seven people in the Commonwealth and ensures that the emergency and transitional needs of the individuals and families are met through federal- and state-funded benefits, such as SNAP and cash assistance.

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