‘Profiles in Waste’ is a series from Pursuit highlighting some of the smaller abuses of your tax dollars. Although small compared to viral billion dollar waste, effective oversight means finding the small before it turns into the big.
This time we highlight the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. SNAP is the largest domestic hunger safety net program in the United States paying benefits to 44 million people costing $71 billion annually in 2016.
The program is likely one of the largest culprits of improper payments in the federal government costing at least $2 billion every year. But no one, not even the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman knows the error rate because of the program’s complexity and inefficient reporting.
Today we focus on SNAP benefits paid to prisoners incarcerated for over 30 days. Federal regulations require states to prevent individuals incarcerated for over 30 days to be included in the SNAP program. However, as seen below, the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that states have not maintained accurate records, leading to thousands of dollars in improper payments being paid out in the small sample size they examined.
Interested in doing your own research? Check out our Agency Toolkit, a compilation of the best government reports. In addition, you can search for more waste from HHS here, on the HHS reports homepage.