Proposed rules give states more power to fight food stamp fraud

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will propose new rules this Thursday that will give states the capacity to investigate food stamp recipients who seek replacement benefit cards more than three times a year. The new rules will also allow states to demand formal explanations from recipients who say they’ve lost their cards. In total, food stamp fraud costs American taxpayers around $750 million a year, equal to about 1 percent of the USDA’s total budget for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The majority of fraud occurs when retailers allow customers to turn in their benefits cards for lesser amounts of cash. But USDA officials are also concerned about people selling or trading cards in the open market, including on the internet.

Read more: Philadelphia Inquirer


In FY2011, 44.7 million people received assistance through the SNAP program1 with an average monthly benefit of $134 per person. More than half of those receiving benefits were children. That average benefit rate, however, varies from state to state. SNAP participants in Minnesota receive the smallest monthly benefit, at $115 per person, followed by Wisconsin at $116 per person and Utah at $118 per person. Hawaii provides the highest benefit of any state by far, at $215 per person. Alaska ($171) and New York ($149) offer the second and third highest benefits in the country.   

The percentage of the population receiving benefits also varies by state. For example, almost one in five people in Mississippi and Oregon received benefits in FY 2011, but less than one in seventeen people received benefits in Wyoming or New Hampshire. Check out the chart below to see where your state stands:

Percent of State Population Participating in SNAP Program, FY2011

Source: Author's calculations using U.S. Department of Agriculture data. 


1 Average Monthly Participation