By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — Florida once again is getting a hefty bonus — $7 million to be exact — from the feds for “saving” taxpayers money.
This year, the state’s Department of Children and Families managed to misspend only $47,829,887 in food stamp benefits. That’s out of almost $6 billion the state received from the federal government.
Nevertheless, Florida’s error rate of .81 percent is the second lowest in the nation, and only a slight dip from the previous year when the state received $8 million for having the lowest in the nation at 0.7 percent. Vermont had the highest waste rate at 9.66 percent, while the national average was 3.2 percent.
“We are pleased Florida is again being recognized as a leader for quality and accuracy in processing food assistance applications,” DCF Interim Secretary Mike Carroll said in a statement. “The department is committed to helping individuals in crisis and being able to quickly assist families and individuals in need of these resources is one of our principal functions.
“This is the seventh year in a row that DCF’s improvements and accuracy in correctly processing food assistance applications has received accolades and bonus money from the federal government, totaling more than $54 million.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture rewards states for keeping error rates to a minimum. State agencies like Florida’s DCF determine eligibility for Medicaid, food assistance and temporary cash assistance based on federal guidelines.
SNAP is meant to give individuals and families a helping hand when they need it most, but data verifying its effectiveness is in short supply. But what’s not in short supply are participants in the program. In 2013, around 3,556,500 signed up for SNAP, an increase of more than 200,000 from the year before.
Rachel Sheffield, a policy analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Heritage Foundation, said adding work training or a work requirement to the food stamp program would help reduce misuse of the federal program.
“It is important” she said, to keep an eye focused on the error rate to ensure it is minimal.