Problems for the embattled farm bill just keep getting more complicated.
Although some experts agree that SNAP’s fraud rates are low, reformers advocate ensuring benefits are reserved for the needy
Last week’s defeat of the farm bill also killed — at least for the time being — new initiatives to ferret out fraud in the food stamp program, including people simultaneously collecting benefits in more than one state.
Although some experts generally regard the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as relatively free of fraud, it turns out efforts to guard against such corruption are spotty in a number of key areas. A pilot program involving five Southern states several years ago uncovered thousands of cases of double dipping — participants who were simultaneously enrolled in multiple states.
With the federal government spending about $70 billion a year on food assistance, “Even small percentages of benefits issued in error translate into a significant improper expenditure of taxpayer dollars,” concluded a 2015 report by the National Accuracy Clearinghouse (NAC), which evaluated the pilot program.
Overall, the cost of fraud in food stamps has grown from $260.4 million in fiscal year 2010 to $592.7 million in fiscal year 2016, according to the annual SNAP State Activity Report published in September.
“Fraud is a big problem in the food stamp program,” said Kristina Rasmussen, vice president of federal affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA).
The farm bill went down to defeat Friday in the House of Representatives for a few reasons. Democrats and moderate Republicans were upset over new work requirement rules for food stamp beneficiaries. Some conservatives were opposed to agriculture subsidies — and miffed that House leaders would not first schedule a vote on a hard-line immigration bill.
At some point, the House will have to pass a farm bill, which would authorize food stamps and agriculture programs for another five years.
Advocates of SNAP reforms hope any revised bill will leave intact anti-fraud measures. The legislation defeated Friday would have expanded on the pilot program targeting double dipping by creating a national database to prevent multiple enrollments.
The bill also would have required states to collect and submit data on applicants’ assets, wages, and program tenure to the Duplicative Enrollment Database.