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pile of kidney beans, cropped with less white space
One of the few things Republicans think poor people should be allowed to eat.
One of the big Republican talking points against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is that it's supposedly rife with fraud. But in fact, error rates in the food stamp program are at an all-time low:
Graph showing declining error rates in SNAP program, both overpayments and underpayments.
The percentage of SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefit dollars issued to ineligible households or to eligible households in excessive amounts fell for the seventh consecutive year in 2013 to 2.61 percent, newly released U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data show. That’s the lowest national overpayment rate since USDA began the current system of measuring error rates in 1981. The underpayment error rate fell to 0.6 percent, also the lowest on record. The combined payment error rate — that is, the sum of the overpayment and underpayment error rates — fell to an all-time low of 3.2 percent. Less than 1 percent of SNAP benefits go to households that are ineligible. In other words, more than 99 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to eligible households.

If one subtracts underpayments (which reduce federal costs) from overpayments, the net loss to the government last year from errors was about 2 percent of benefits. In comparison, 16.9 percent of taxes legally due in 2006 (the most recently studied year) went unpaid, according to Internal Revenue Service estimates.

Additionally, only one percent of SNAP benefits are "trafficked"—sold for cash.

Of course, congressional Republicans consider poor people eating anything but crusts and gruel to be fraud, because really their crusade against food stamps is about hating poor people, not good government or fiscal responsibility or anything like that. (In fact, food stamp expenditures can save money in the long term, since children with access to food stamps are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to stunted growth, heart disease, or obesity.)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 09:54 AM PDT.

Also republished by Good News, Hunger in America, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  SNAP Is a Great Program (8+ / 0-)

    Benefits are too low, but the program overall is cheap compared to the degree to which it helps families, especially children. It's also engineered to offer consumer choice and help families support local businesses. Since all SNAP funds are spent every month, it's also a great form of stimulus. All SNAP spending immediately enters the economy.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:08:39 AM PDT

    •  EXACTLY! But to admit that, means empowering the (6+ / 0-)

      poor and middle class, as an engine that drives the economy.  As if the multiplier is some kind of liberal construct.

      Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer. Ayn is the bane!

      by Floyd Blue on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:40:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'd like to see a comparison (0+ / 0-)

        of how much money we have wasted on people who weren't close enough to starving that they really needed the help vs how much we wasted on subsidies, tax breaks, loopholes, bankruptcy relief and bailouts for large energy companies, wall street, and big agrabusiness.

        As to the question of how they measure your need, what percentage of poverty it takes to qualify, 12% of Mainers are under the poverty line.

        Poverty in Maine is higher today than in the deepest part of the last recession in 2001.

            One in every 8 Maine people lives below the “official” poverty line – $17,600 for a family of 3.
            Most now agree that nearly double that amount is needed to make ends meet.
            By this measure, 1 in 3 Maine people don’t have sufficient income to meet basic needs.

        In Maine LePage and Susan Collins voted against TANF. That's the Temporary Aid to Needy Families kind of "Relief" that provides heating oil to single mothers in winter.

        It provides shelter and SNAP or EBT food to homeless kids living under bridges. It provides for food banks where once a month you can go and get a couple of shopping bags worth of canned beans and cereal, maybe some milk for a baby.

        It provides medications to elderly people who constantly have to choose between paying for food, heat, or the pills that keep them from ending up in the emergency ward with their diabetes severe enough that it requires the amputation of their legs, or their hospitalization with a heart attack or stroke.

           Nearly 13% of Maine families don’t always have enough food to fully meet their family’s basic needs.
            Maine has among the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation, ranking 11th highest.
            Food insecurity in Maine is 43% higher than the average of other New England states.
            Food Stamp participation has increased by nearly 30% between July 2003 and 2008.
        In Maine its expected that you hunt and gather (forage) and or have a garden to provide your basic diet and EBT provides enough of a supplement, $19 and change a month for someone elderly with social security and maybe twenty times that for someone really desperate, someone with absolutely no income, a homeless teenage single mother no longer receiving unemployment, but still expected to care for a family.

        For her TANF  might provide some temporary relief for her kids so she  can  buy milk. She can buy milk but not cat food, cats should be able to hunt.

        LePage and Collins voted against that and against the medicare expansion providing healthcare to the needy and against unemployment and equal pay for women and pretty much anything that helps people who really need help as wasteful while giving tax breaks to billionaires.

        Wages and benefits are falling far behind what is needed to make ends meet.

            Workers in the bottom 30% of wage-earners saw a 1% decline in real wages between 2001 and 2007.
            At the same time prices for basic necessities like heating fuel, food and gasoline have skyrocketed.
            Maine’s basic Temporary Assistant for Needy Families  benefit for a family of 3 is only $485 a month, for many this is the only cash income they receive.
            This basic benefit has not increased since 2001, leaving nearly 24,000 children in very precarious living situations.

        The larger picture is that Republicans want Americans to be angry with government so they vote to get rid of it so that its clean air and water regulations, OSHA and union protections for workers go away as well.

        What Republicans desperately want to sell you is that both parties are the same, both take campaign contributions from corporations and are more worried about getting reelected themselves than whether your kids starve.

        Here's the result.

        The combination of falling incomes and skyrocketing costs means thousands of Maine people cannot make ends meet.

            Since 2001 the cost of heating our homes has nearly tripled.
            80% of Maine families depend on oil to stay warm.
            Gasoline prices have more than doubled since 2001.
            The average driver is paying $25 more to fill the tank than they were in 2001.

        It costs $80 to fill a tank with enough gas to get my wife to the hospital for her treatment for a week and go grocery shopping twice a month.

        I can't walk dragging a sled in winter to a store that sells food and get back with it in a day. I might make it on a  bicycle in summer but couldn't carry much unless I rigged a trailer for the bike. Either way it will be slow work going uphill. To get to a Wallmart or Hanniford would take several days.

           The cost of food in the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan (the national standard for a nutritious low-cost diet) has climbed nearly 11% in the last year.
            A family of 4 must spend the equivalent of an extra full day’s work per month at minimum wage to buy the same amount of food as it did last year.
            More and more electric utility customers are having trouble paying their bills.

        We can heat with wood, keep the temperature above 40 degrees if I get up regularly to stoke the wood stove and we dress for the outdoors and spend most of our time indoors under quilts. I have to start cutting and splitting wood about now to make that happen. We can get some oil through HEAP  maybe a tank a year, and some electricity through LiHEAP,. We can get water from the spring which generally runs year round, even when the power is out so the wells don't function. With all those advantages we are much better off than most.

        Between March 2006 and 2008, overdue bills increased by:
                74% among Maine Public Service (MPS) customers;
                52% for Central Maine Power (CMP) customers;
                43% for Bangor Hydro Electric (BHE) customers.
            Nearly 20% more CMP customers actually lost service this year than in 2006.
            Maine’s unemployment rate is 15% higher than last year.
            A dramatic 43% more workers run out of unemployment benefits before they can find new work.

        Unemployment in Maine is not considered insurance, many employers think paying someone for not working is an unnatural act. Extending the benefits is considered welfare. That's just the way it is here.

        Meanwhile the people who we refer to as summer complaints want us to pay for their flood insurance so their elegant summer homes on the ocean won't get washed out to see along with the fisherman's wharfage which of course won't be covered.

        "la vida no vale nada un lugar solita" "The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch

        by rktect on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 08:00:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  and god fobid (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That some family gets a little more food than they deserve. It might mean that they spend their federal dollars feasting on lobster and Dom Perignon instead of looking for a real job.  Oh wait, I just confused the working poor with congress.

      The real concern here is that we are denying benefits to family who need them.

      She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing. -Kurt Vonnegut Life is serious but we don't have to be - me

      by lowt on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 08:38:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How on earth do they measure this? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I always wonder, when I read stats like this, how they measure. There have got to be multiple layers of estimates and assumptions built into the models. "Only 1% are trafficked," for example -- how do you know? You can know how many people get caught, and how many stores get DQ'd from the program when they get audited, but the nature of the trafficking is that it's secret.

    The same is true of fraud by receiving benefits when you weren't eligible, or underreporting income -- how do you uncover people's under-the-table income? or the boyfriend (or spouse) living in the house and supporting the family who wasn't listed among the household members?

    In addition, I suspect there's a wide geographic variation due to prosecution discrepancies or priorities, big city vs small town, the competence of intake workers, the ethics of corner grocery stores, etc. etc. So some of the people screaming about fraud may be accurately reflecting what is going on in their neighborhoods, even if the nationwide statistics are much rosier.

    This kind of a report is helpful (maybe, if facts matter) in convincing Congress not to shut down the program. But it doesn't really answer the legitimate concerns about fraud on the part of both individuals and stores.

    •  Methodology Is in the Linked Article (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, HeyMikey

      There is an extensive monitoring and auditing practice, as well as Federal supervision of how states implement the SNAP program. They have fieldworkers who review the eligibility information provided by beneficiaries and monitor the state agencies to make sure that eligibility guidelines are being followed.

      As far as fraud is concerned, they have computer programs that detect fraudulent behavior by statistical probability. When it looks like SNAP funds are being improperly spent, they notify local law enforcement authorities who investigate. Since most SNAP spending is now done by pre-paid debate cards, they can track anything that beneficiaries do with the funds.

      "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

      by bink on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 11:40:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  what's NOT in the error measurements (0+ / 0-)

        SNAP error rates measure benefits ISSUED by mistake. This doesn't mean the recipient wasn't eligible; it means the person may not have provided all the paperwork required to document eligibility.

        SNAP error rates DO NOT MEASURE benefits DENIED BY MISTAKE. Did the caseworker lose the documents provided? (Happens A LOT.) Not counted. Did the caseworker have the documents, but mistakenly deny your claim? Not counted. Were you steered into reapplying, instead of appealing--so your benefits may restart, but you'll never get the retro benefits you lost in the interim? (Also happens A LOT.) Not counted. Etc.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 01:59:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Its more like this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Your income might be close to qualifying for some help from SNAP, If you are elderly and or disabled so you can't work and you have exhausted all your savings and sold all your assets your Social Security income puts you right on the line.

          You get some benefits, not enough to feed you but enough to supplement your income to where you are only about $500 short each month of making ends meet.

          How do you make up the difference without it counting as income which would mean going over which would disqualify you?

          If you weren't disabled two people working one week a month or one person working two weeks a month would get you by but then you wouldn't qualify so you would be back to where you started.

          For us it means you just don't buy stuff you used to think were necessities. Gas and oil are budgeted so you can't make an extra trip to town for any reason.

          You can't go to town for a meeting casually because it might mean you wouldn't have gas to get to the hospital. You can't have a tank of oil heat in the fall or spring. You cut the money you used to spend  on a cable bill or lights, just go to bed when the sun goes down, get up when it rises. Going out to dinner or to a movie, beer, cigarettes, games or tv, entertaining friends, buying clothes are all things of the past.

          You can still read a book, or play cribbage or go for a walk; so you count yourself lucky and take it from there, just hope the Democrats get rid of the Republicans soon.

          "la vida no vale nada un lugar solita" "The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch

          by rktect on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 08:28:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I would think it would be.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      Very easy to track a persons purchases with a snap card. Probably harder to detect fraud with disability claims. There was something on the news here about firemen and cops getting caught doing things they shouldn't be able to do ...through their Facebook pages.

      •  different issue (0+ / 0-)

        The SNAP error rate is basically people who got approved for SNAP without providing all the proper documentation. What they do with the SNAP benefits after they get them is not counted in the error rate, I believe. There's probably some separate measurement (fraud rate, etc.) for that.

        "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

        by HeyMikey on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 02:00:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  And in my experience, at least, SNAP "trafficking" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, HeyMikey

    happens when they really, really need something that they can't get with the card. Like the dollar it takes to go to the laundromat to wash their clothes.

    "He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."

    by Hayate Yagami on Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 01:02:02 PM PDT

    •  Diapers, diapers, toilet paper, toilet paper. (0+ / 0-)

      Food benefits can only be used on food.  Two women who stole diapers from a local CVS got 30 days in jail, 30 days more than the Wall Street bankers who sabotaged the world economy, while their children had to stay with other poor relatives.
      The food benefit program has always been a part of the Dept. of Agriculture because it was originally designed to assure a consumer base for US farmers at a time when they could not sell their harvest.  That the program helped the poor was secondary.

      Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

      by judyms9 on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 07:39:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, of course, if people are complaining (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    about not having bread, let them eat cake.  That's just basic Reaganomics.  Isn't it?

  •  Oh, no - don't kid yourself (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Congressional Republicans would begrudge the poor their crusts and gruel, too.

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 07:18:03 AM PDT

  •  Most Food Stamp Recipients Are White Children (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    on the cusp, Amber6541, judyms9

    who the rethugs would have mining coal underground to earn their benefits.

  •  or cleaning bathrooms (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    at schools.

  •  I've a friend who had to go with SNAP (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    He's what they call a creative, someone who makes their living on their artistic ability - and he's got a lot.

    Well, the Great Recession essentially crashed his business. He was hearing things like, "Well, maybe you should think about getting a real job." and other 'helpful' comments. With a wife and two kids, it was not a great time. His wife went to work, to give him time to keep pursuing his passions. Friends and family helped. They lost their house at one point, IIRC, but they kept at it, and eventually recovered.

    And a big part of it was SNAP. Being able to get food was a huge help. It helped them keep things together.

    And today he has a movie based on one of his stories in production. It's going to be an animated film aimed at children primarily, and it may be a stepping stone to other creative ideas he has in the works. Without SNAP, he might have ended up as just another schlub trapped in a 'real' job, barely scraping by and hating every minute of it.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 07:34:20 AM PDT

  •  Overpayments (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Because having too much money for food (and only food) is a terrible thing (to Republicans).

  •  The disdain so many have for food benefit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    recipients is another example of American Exceptionalism I suppose.  A few weeks ago my husband was at the check-out of the local supermarket. When he pulled out his debit card which is a similar color to this state's food benefit card, the officious woman behind him rudely piped up that she didn't think his card should be used to pay for the two hotrod magazines he had along with a few grocery items.  He told her she had just betrayed her own ignorance and rudeness and pointed out it was a bank card.  But people like her are out there everywhere, people who will learn nothing--even from their self-righteous errors.  

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 07:48:01 AM PDT

  •  Crablegs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (0+ / 0-)

    My constituents can't afford Crablegs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 07:50:22 AM PDT

  •  Walmart get 30 billion dollars in Food Stamp (0+ / 0-)

    They are the biggest benefiter of the food stamp program

  •  Underpayment Rate. (0+ / 0-)

    The underpayment rate should include people who don't know they're eligible or find the paperwork too difficult to attempt or can't get to to offices during the right hours, etc.  

    Mandatory Gun Insurance would provide for victims, encourage safety and not be an excessive burden on gun owners. How to do it at Gun Insurance Blog. I also make posts at Huffington as Tom Harvey.

    by guninsuranceblog on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 09:00:29 AM PDT

  •  Yet another... (0+ / 0-)

    TeaOP talking point debunked.
    They'll probably say the results of the studies are flawed though.

  •  They want the poor to eat kidney beans raw, too (0+ / 0-)

    That's because while cooked kidney beans are perfectly safe to eat, raw ones are deadly poison.  

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