Recent news reports suggest ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars and mismanagement by DTA of the SNAP (food stamps) program, including a $27M overpayment of federal funds. Here’s what you need to know.
• There was NO fraud and NO fault on the part of SNAP recipients involved. All of the Massachusetts SNAP households played by the rules. They timely reported changes in advance of their next recertification period. The feds (USDA) have found NO fault on the part of Massachusetts SNAP recipients in determining this overpayment.
• At the height of the Great Recession in 2009, unemployment hit double digit figures - the lowest since 1964 according to the Department of Labor. The SNAP caseload surged around the nation. President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), increasing SNAP benefits by 13.6% in April of 2009 and suspended onerous work-for-food rules due to the lack of employment options.
• Between January 2009 and January 2011 alone, the Massachusetts SNAP caseload grew from 318,286 SNAP households to over 439,836 - a 72.3% increase in SNAP households.
• Since 2005, the average SNAP caseload has climbed from 500 to over 900 per DTA caseworker in local DTA offices. Despite repeated requests by the DTA union, SIEU and the Food SNAP Coalition, state appropriations were not available to increase DTA resources to manage this burgeoning caseload.
• The $27M of SNAP dollars that USDA claims Massachusetts owes for continuing SNAP benefits to families not fully recertified represents 1.3% of the total SNAP benefits received by eligible SNAP recipients during this time period. Massachusetts eligible SNAP households received roughly $2.1B in federal nutrition dollars during the 18 months in question - April 2009 through December 2010.
• USDA may well be in error here. USDA has narrowly interpreted federal rules and, we believe, erroneously directed states to suspend issuing SNAP benefits until a state agency can complete their side of the review of the SNAP case - despite the timely actions and cooperation of the SNAP household.
• DTA did the right thing during the Recession. The majority of SNAP cases were in-fact correctly recertified with no overpayment. An “auto-closure policy” is wrong! NO FAMILY that has played by the rules should be forced to go hungry while overburdened state agencies struggle with huge caseloads, limited staffing and technology
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