Illinois officials have been put on the clock to fix a longstanding problem with their slow distribution of food assistance or they’ll lose millions of dollars in federal funding, putting a hole in the state’s budget.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture sent the Illinois Department of Human Services what they called their "formal warning" Friday, saying state officials have until April 21 to either improve their timeliness rate of food stamp delivery over 95 percent or to give USDA a gameplan on how they’ll get compliant.
If the state fails to meet the requirements, Trish Solis, Acting Regional Administrator of USDA’s Midwest Region, says they’ll withhold $18,271,374 in federal funding meant for the state’s SNAP administrative expenses. That’s one quarter of Illinois’ Fiscal Year 2019 SNAP administrative expenses.
The USDA says in their letter that Illinois officials didn’t meet benchmarks for the period April through September of 2017, when timeliness metrics were at 90 percent. More recent reporting from the state shows the problem has gotten worse, with a timeliness rating of 63 percent in January of 2019.
"Our goal is to help IDHS avoid suspension of administrative funding and ensure access to SNAP for eligible households in Illinois as well as the integrity of the program," Solis said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office wasn’t immediately available to respond to the USDA letter.