(BrightPress.org) – A new law would require states to recover wasted billions that were misused during the pandemic. The law targets the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also known as food stamps.
According to the feds, in 2022 the program paid out $11 billion in benefits over what they were required to by law. The mind-boggling misuse of taxpayer dollars jumped from $3.4 billion in overpayments in 2019. Almost 80% of them were due to errors made by locals within the state agencies.
In 2019, the USDA decided to abandon attempts to recoup the funds, according to Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), the feds went so far as to exempt reporting requirements for overpayments and errors in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
Data comparing 2018 to 2022 shows that the rate of overpayments jumped nearly 4% from 6.18% to 9.84%.
New York State had a rate higher than the national average, coming in at 10.35% in 2022. These values are also underestimates, according to Ernst, as errors less than $54 aren’t even counted.
His bill would force the states to recover the overpayments from the recipients and pay the federal government back. Ernst also suggested that some states may be skimming funds from the program.
During the lockdowns, food stamp demands skyrocketed as folks suffered the impact of unemployment and job loss. The number of people seeking financial help paying for food for themselves and their families jumped from 35 million nationwide in 2019 to 41 million by the end of 2022.
The Foundation for Government Accountability claimed that government spending on food stamps in that same period doubled, despite the number of enrollees going up 16-17%. The FGA further pointed out that fraud wastes taxpayer dollars to the tune of millions or more, and it was up to Congress to regulate it such that fraud is mitigated before the benefits are distributed.
There are multiple examples of egregious fraud in the program, especially in the state of New York. One employee with New York City’s Human Resources Administration was busted in 2017 for a scheme that netted him over $225,000 in benefits over a seven-year period. Two other city workers were nailed in 2015 for stealing $2.1 million from the food stamps and rental subsidy programs.
The USDA did not respond to a request for comment by the New York Post.
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