Government programs have always been a bit of a money pit, as the cash gets doled out and is never seen again. Reports of fraud have run rampant in these programs for years, and a main one is the food stamp program.
The USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has reportedly been losing over $1 billion per month on alleged fraud and errors within the already shaky system. But one lawmaker on Capitol Hill is doing their part to try and quell the rampant abuse of the system. Iowa Senator Jodi Ernst has introduced legislation aimed at combatting the fraud with audits, assuring that all errors are counted.
Charles Blain, President of Urban Reform, says this bill would add a layer of accountability.
"For not only the federal program, but also the states, to try and reign that in, and make sure the money going through this program is being used the way it is intended," he says.
Abuse of funds in the food stamp program has been an issue for years. The number of Americans enrolled in the SNAP program increased from 35 million in 2019 to over 41 million in 2022. In that same time, the SNAP costs rose from $60 billion to a staggering record $119.5 billion.
It is not just individual users cheating the system, it has been entire states as well.
"They are giving out beenefits to people not eligible, overpaying them, and not paying attention to where the funding is going," he says.
The USDA has reported in June of this year that states had an overpayment error rate of 9.84 percent, and in 2022, there were about $11 billion in overpayments reported. But, this number is skewed a bit because the USDA excludes any error below $54.
For the average taxpayer, this has become increasingly infuriating.
"We often do not hear about this because it happens under the radar...they come back then next year asking for a budget increase...yet, they do not consider how much is being leaked out," says Blain.
But this push from Senator Ernst should not stop with the SNAP Benefits. Blain says this should be expanded.
"I think if we expanded this across many different programs...we would find a lot of money we are spending, that we should not be spending," he says. "Then, maybe they would not have to come back to us for budget increases every single year."
In the end though, while the taxpayers' pockets hurt, the people who really get hurt by this are those who truly need the service.
"Ideally through audits like this, and in other programs, we can scale some of that back and direct funding where it needs to go," he says. "I bet you too, if they cut out a lot of this fraud, you could probably give more benefits and spend less as a whole than we are today on these programs."
According to watchdog organization 'Open the Books,' this SNAP abuse is melted into about $3 trillion, more than the annual gross domestic product of France, in improper payments made by federal agencies since 2004.