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Food stamp report shows plenty of waste in Missouri

By   /   September 10, 2013  /   1 Comment

Part 19 of 20 in the series EBT Investigation

By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog

When it comes to food stamps, Missouri is about as wasteful as they come.

Recently released data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program show that Missouri had the second highest overpayment rate of the 53 states and territories that participate at 6.44 percent last fiscal year. Only Rhode Island was higher, at 6.5 percent.

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FOOD STAMP WASTE: Missouri showed one of the highest overpayment error rates in the country.

The Show-Me State’s overall error rate of 7.18 percent (which includes 0.73 percent in underpayments) was tied for third worst. The nationwide average was 3.42 percent.

Accuracy is more important now than ever before. The boon in the number of participants in the food stamp program means the amount of waste grows at an even higher rate.

Missouri’s overpayment rate was just 2.17 percent in fiscal year 2007, almost tripling in five years. Meanwhile, the number of residents receiving food stamps has grown from about 700,000 in fiscal year 2008 to almost 950,000 last year. Those recipients got a collective $1.46 billion from the federal government to help pay for groceries in 2012.

But the 6.44 percent overpayment rate means Missouri residents got about $94 million more than they were supposed to last year. The underpayment rate of 0.73 percent means other recipients were shorted about $10.5 million.

Rebecca Woelfel, communications director for the Missouri Department of Social Services, said things are looking much better in 2013, with a preliminary error rate of 2.39 percent for the first five months of the fiscal year.

Why the big improvement?

Woelfel said in an email to Missouri Watchdog the department’s family support division, which handles SNAP distribution, has “tightened food stamp policies that contribute to error prone cases” and “enhanced the eligibility determination system.” We attempted to contact Woelfel again via email and phone for clarification on the nature of those policies, but could not reach her.

In her email, Woelfel said that the department’s family support division also solicited assistance from USDA and other experts to determine best practices that work in other states.

Contact Kampis at johnny@missouriwatchdog.org.

Part of 20 in the series EBT Investigation

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Johnny Kampis is a content editor at Watchdog.org, and is helping to start the organization’s Alabama Watchdog bureau in his home state. Johnny previously worked in the newspaper industry and as a freelance writer, and has been published in The New York Times, Time.com and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

  • smelltest

    The “show me” state now the “show me the money” state.