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Local Control, Discretion, and Administrative Burden: SNAP Interview Waivers and Caseloads During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Colleen Heflin, William Clay Fannin, Leonard Lopoo

American Review of Public Administration, July 2023

Colleen Heflin

Colleen Heflin

Clay Fannin headshot

William Clay Fannin

Leonard Lopoo headshot

Leonard M. Lopoo

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture waived the certification interview for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), substantially reducing the administrative burden associated with SNAP application for both applicants and agencies.

Using primary policy data collected from ten county-administered states, we find that only 27% of counties implemented the interview waiver. Further, models of local decision-making indicate that public health risk, demographic vulnerability and economic need, and political orientation in the county were not statistically significant predictors of waiver use.

Finally, we find that the waiver choice did affect SNAP caseloads: using difference-in-difference models that make use of the natural experiment, we find that counties that adopted the SNAP interview waivers experienced a 5% increase in SNAP caseloads.