Damian Dovarganes, AP
Since 2008, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly known as food stamps, has doubled in size, with 49 million Americans now on the rolls. The cost of the program has also jumped dramatically. The federal government now spends $75 billion a year on food stamps, compared to $36 billion in 2008, according to a new Department of Agriculture report focused on the problem of "trafficking."
"Trafficking of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits occurs when SNAP recipients sell their benefits for cash to food retailers, often at a discount," the report said.
While the report did not find that the problem was escalating in proportional terms, the enormous growth of the program itself means that relatively small ratios of fraud produce sizable losses for the government. The value of trafficked food stamp cards was estimated at $858 million a year in this study, "up from $330 million annually in the 2006-2008 study."
The report found that 10.5 percent of participating stores had engaged in trafficking, and that 85 percent of those were small outlets, which are more difficult to police.
The significance of the report lies in the eye of the beholder. Ellie Sandmeyer at the left-leaning Media Matters took Fox News to task for failing to provide context, citing only the raw numbers of increased fraud. "Kilmeade's misleading report is just another example of how Fox News has shamelessly misrepresented the SNAP program and its beneficiaries in an effort to demonize food assistance and malign low-income Americans," Sandmeyer wrote.
But Fox News online did note that "despite the increase [in raw numbers], trafficking has declined since the 1990s, when the rate was nearly 4 percent of food stamps, also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs benefits."
Meanwhile, states are struggling to manage oversight on a program grown much larger in scope, such that even percentage-wise small losses become fiscal and political headaches.
Oregon, for example, has established a legislative working group to explore mechanisms to control fraud that are cost-effective and not overly burdensome for the benefit recipient.
- Best and worst states to have a baby
- 'The Locator' Troy Dunn keeps working to...
- 20 things I will not regret doing with my kids
- 'Maze Runner,' based on Utah author's novel,...
- The Clean Cut: New 'Simba cam' takes over...
- Big screen 'Maze Runner' is a big dream come...
- Little Emmanuel's journey home a tale of...
- Where do we draw the line on spanking?
- Supporters for traditional marriage... 166
- Where do we draw the line on spanking? 13
- Little Emmanuel's journey home a tale... 9
- Why do Elsa's and Anna's parents have... 6
- 'The Locator' Troy Dunn keeps working... 5
- Goodell: 'Same mistakes can never be... 4
- 25 ways I know my husband loves me 4
- Why a parent going to prison can be... 4