A federal government crackdown is sweeping across the state of Oregon, including a new crackdown on the state’s citizens who have access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamps.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday it is increasing enforcement of an existing law that prohibits people with Oregon Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from accessing Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP) benefits.
Under the federal law, people with an Oregon Social Service Number (SSN) who are denied access to SNAP benefits can go to a federal food stamp office and request an affidavit from the federal agency.
If they receive a rejection letter, they must go to the nearest Oregon State Police station and fill out a federal form that includes a description of their case.
“If they don’t have an Oregon SSSN, they can still request an appeal of their denial,” said Melissa Houser, an outreach coordinator for the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“If they do have an SSN, the department will take the appropriate steps.”
People with Oregon SSNs who are able to prove they have the correct information, including their Oregon Social Services Number, can get a federal ID number from a local government, the Oregon Public Health Division.
The ID number is valid for up to two years.
Oregon Social Service Numbers are not valid for Oregon food stamps, but people with the correct Oregon SNS will still be able to get SNAP benefits.
But the law states that if someone who has an Oregon SSN and does not have a valid ID number can get an appeal from a federal agency, the person will be placed in an administrative review or a court hearing.
The department has not made any enforcement action against people who have an OSPN, but the Oregon State Health Division has said that it will enforce the law and is preparing for additional enforcement action.
Oregon officials have been concerned about how the federal food stamps program has been managed in the state.
The state recently enacted a controversial “bail-in” program that allowed some recipients to withdraw from SNAP benefits and apply for other government benefits.
The new program, which was put in place to help the state recover from the economic downturn, has not been effective in helping Oregonans get back on track, with nearly 6 million people losing SNAP benefits over the past six years.
In October, the USDA announced it would be adding a new requirement to the Supplemental Nutrition Facts Disclosure Statement (SNFTD), the state government’s main tool for communicating with the public about the nutritional status of food stamp programs.
The change will require all recipients to submit their Social Security numbers and a copy of their Oregon SINs when applying for benefits.
In a letter to the Oregon legislature, Housers said, “The new requirement will further complicate the program, as individuals with an OSSN who have not provided an Oregon social service number or have no OSSNs will be unable to get the benefit they need and are at greater risk for food stamp fraud.”
The Oregon Department and Oregon State Legislature are now negotiating a bill that will require a Social Security Number or other identification number to be submitted to the Department for each person applying for food stamps in Oregon.
“I don’t want to see that number go up or down,” Hous, the outreach coordinator, said.
“I think we need to be very careful, because if we do go up, that could create a lot of confusion.”
The USDA also said that the law enforcement actions are consistent with its “targeted enforcement” strategy, which targets individuals with certain characteristics and behavior patterns.
The USDA will conduct a targeted enforcement program this fall and is reviewing whether to increase enforcement, Horser said.