Public Assistance: PARIS Project Can Help States Reduce Improper Benefit Payments

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "Public assistance programs make millions of dollars in improper payments every year. Some of these improper payments occur because state and local agencies that run the programs lack adequate, timely information to determine recipients' eligibility for assistance. This inability to share information can result in both federal and state tax dollars being needlessly spent on benefits for the same individuals and families in more than one state. In 1997, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began a project to help states share eligibility information ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. September 6, 2001.

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Description

A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "Public assistance programs make millions of dollars in improper payments every year. Some of these improper payments occur because state and local agencies that run the programs lack adequate, timely information to determine recipients' eligibility for assistance. This inability to share information can result in both federal and state tax dollars being needlessly spent on benefits for the same individuals and families in more than one state. In 1997, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began a project to help states share eligibility information with one another. The public assistance reporting information system (PARIS) interstate match helps states share information on public assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Food Stamps, to identify individuals or families who may be receiving benefit payments in more than one state simultaneously. Officials in almost all of the 16 states and the District of Columbia that participated in PARIS said that the project has helped identify improper TANF, Medicaid, or Food Stamp payments. Despite its successes, the project has several limitations. First, the opportunity to detect improper duplicate payments is not as great as it could be because only one-third of the states participate. Second, participating states do not have adequate protocols or guidelines to facilitate critical interstate communication. As a result, some states have reported critical problems, such as difficulty determining whether an individual identified in a match is actually receiving benefits in another state. Third, state administrators for the TANF, Medicaid, and Food Stamp programs have not always placed adequate priority on using PARIS matches to identify recipients who are living in other states. As a result, individuals may continue to receive or have benefits paid on their behalf in more than one state even after they were identified through the matching process. Finally, because the PARIS match is only designed to identify people after they are already on the rolls, it does not enable the states to prevent improper payments from being made in the first place."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • September 6, 2001

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. Public Assistance: PARIS Project Can Help States Reduce Improper Benefit Payments, report, September 6, 2001; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc292950/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.