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The U.S. food stamp program is losing around $1 billion a month owing to alleged fraud and errors, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has warned.
The lawmaker issued the warning in a Sept. 26 press release announcing new legislation aimed at combating the alleged billions of dollars in monthly losses from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which allows low-income families with benefit cards to buy basic food items at approved grocery stores.
The bill also directs state governments to stop handing out benefits to individuals who are not eligible, requires states to pay back what they owe, and directs states to recollect SNAP overpayments, ensuring that each household only receives exactly what they are eligible for.
Additionally, the legislation will hold states accountable for payment error rates to incentivize better management of funds, and improve the accuracy of SNAP payment error rates by requiring all errors to be reported.
Meanwhile, SNAP costs rose from $60.3 billion in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic, to a record-setting $119.5 billion in 2022.
“Families across the country are going hungry while bureaucrats are jumping the line to gobble up SNAP dollars, either as a meal ticket to beef up state budgets or a self-serve buffet of benefits for themselves or others who do not qualify,” the senator said in Tuesday’s statement. “I’m snapping back! It’s time for states at fault to pay the piper and eat the costs of their taxpayer waste. Instead of overserving bureaucrats, let’s end the waste and set a place at the table for hungry families,” Ms. Ernst added.
The Iowa Republican noted that the majority of errors from the food stamp program are owing to “overpayments” or benefits paid to recipients who are not actually eligible to receive them.
In June, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that states had an overpayment error rate of 9.84 percent.
In 2022, there were approximately $11.2 billion in overpayments reported, however the exact number is unknown because the USDA excludes errors totaling $54 or less.
Fraud and errors relating to food assistance programs are not the only problems.
“This is the definition of a dinner-table issue. Senator Ernst has identified a kind of improper payment that strikes right at the heart of an American’s life – their need to feed themselves and their families nutritious foods,” Mr. Andrzejewski said in a statement. “While we’ve demonstrated that fraud runs rampant across government, stealing right from our plates is an especially pernicious way to make your ill-gotten gains.”
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