Federal officials spend $460 million annually on Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamps for households only deemed eligible for the program because they already benefited from another safety net program, according to a new government report.
“Although SNAP households that had incomes over the federal limits made up an estimated 2.6 percent of the SNAP caseload in fiscal year 201o, this group received an estimated 0.7 percent of all SNAP benefits,” the Government Accountability Office reported today. “These benefits totaled an estimated $38.3 million a month, or approximately $360 million annually.”
That number reflects a policy called broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE), which deems “households that receive services funded by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) . . . categorically eligible for SNAP.” President Obama recently eased the eligibility requirements for TANF by allowing the Health and Human Services Department to issue waivers for the work requirement that was legislated in the 1996 welfare reform.
The United States Department of Agriculture has urged states to adopt BBCE, but the GAO says “BBCE has potentially had a negative effect on SNAP program integrity.”
GAO found that over 18 percent of households receiving SNAP due to categorical eligibility also have at least one person who receives an average of $223/month in unemployment insurance.
Most of the SNAP expansion in recent years derives from the recession and President Obama’s policies, such as the 2009 stimulus, the GAO found. “For example, the Recovery Act implemented a 13.6 percent increase in maximum monthly SNAP benefits,” the report says. “[O]fficials noted that the Recovery Act’s suspension of the 3-month time limit for able-bodied adults without dependents also caused a noticeable increase in SNAP participants.”