Iowa’s Republican Sen. Joni Ernst told the Washington Times that the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, is losing an estimated $1 billion per month due to fraud and errors, including “double-dipping,” overpayments, and benefits being provided to “wholly ineligible” recipients.
“Folks, you don’t get to make errors like this when you are calculating your taxes, so they shouldn’t be tolerated by those spending your taxes!” the Iowa Republican said in the report as she slapped the food stamp program with her monthly “Squeal Award.”
According to the report, the federal program, which is run by the individual states, has a 10% national overpayment rate that includes states like Alaska, which has a 57% overpayment rate and Maryland, which overpays recipients a third of the time.
Ernst, one of the leading waste watchdogs, said she is introducing legislation Tuesday to curb overpayents by eliminating the “tolerance threshold,” which does not require reporting of “errors” resulting in $54 or less and that likely “underreports” the problem.
According to Ernst, Maryland paid out benefits to more than 86,000 residents who did not qualify for the program and has “no plans” to get the money back, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a “free pass.”
The report said that cases of fraud are not just limited to individuals receiving money, but also to organized schemes draining millions of dollars from the SNAP program.
In one Delaware case, seven state employees working at the agency administering the program were charged with stealing $1 million in benefits by creating fake beneficiaries and then pocketing the money themselves.
The General Accountability Office reported that as much as $135 billion in pandemic unemployment aid was stolen by fraudsters, and criminal groups are siphoning as much as $3 billion per month from the food program, according to the report.
“What happened during COVID is the criminals learned that government is the easiest place to steal from. And they’re accelerating,” Haywood Talcove, CEO of government at LexisNexis Risk Solutions told The Washington Times about estimated thefts this summer. “Until the government hardens its systems, then they’re going to continue. Trying to catch them, with this many doing it, is virtually impossible. There’s just not enough resources.”
Ernst said she wants eligible families to get the benefits, but wants to see an end to the fraud and errors that allow the program’s money to be wasted.
“Instead of giving billions in benefits to those who don’t qualify or doubling payments for others already being served, let’s set a place at the table for the families who do qualify but are going without while they wait in line,” Ernst said in the report.
Charles Kim ✉
Charles Kim, a Newsmax general assignment writer, is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years in reporting on news and politics.
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