In a report published earlier this week, some $4.5 billion has been inappropriately applied to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, including benefits that were administered to 2,000 dead people in New York and Massachusetts.
This is just more information released by Sen Tom Coburn, and his government waste report. He found that “7,236 people in these states are receiving duplicate benefits, while 286 are on state lists that should exclude them from receiving food stamps.” This translates into $1.4 million in improper payments per month, or $147.03 for each beneficiary — whether they’re dead or alive.
Coburn reported that in three states some recipients collected SNAP benefits simply because they smoke marijuana.
So these states allowed some marijuana users to deduct the cost of the drug from their income when determining the amount of the benefits provided for which they are eligible. For example, in Oregon, the deduction included fees for obtaining a state-issued medical marijuana card, expenses incurred while cultivating marijuana and the costs of purchasing it from a third-party grower.
No one knows for sure just how many used this deduction.
Even though First Lady Michelle Obama speaks of the war on poverty, the food stamps program has doled out billions of dollars to individuals who are using their benefits on Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, gas station junk food, and even alcohol. In fact, in Tennessee, food stamps subsidies — intended, of course, for food —actually paid for beer, diapers, and condoms.
Then about $80 billion in SNAP benefits are expected to provide more than 46 million Americans with federal assistance this year, in a program intended to ensure that impoverished children receive healthy meals. But the billions in improper SNAP payments are estimated to be made this year, while millions of dollars more will be improperly spent on imprudent promotional material and food and activities with little or no nutritional value.
Despite the improper use of the money, the feds haven’t enforced the rules.
“Soft drinks, candy, cookies, snack crackers, and ice cream are food items and are therefore eligible items,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) acknowledges on its website. “Seafood, steak, and bakery cakes are also food items and are therefore eligible items.”
Also, many SNAP recipients in California use their government assistance benefits to buy fast food at Taco Bell, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Domino’s Pizza — the precise foods Mrs. Obama claims to detest. In Los Angeles alone, more than 140,000 people may use their benefits at fast food restaurants and at other places that sell less-than-nutritious foods.
Yet the most damning aspect of Coburn’s report on misapplied food stamps benefits is the unprecedented amount of taxpayer money spent on alcohol and other un-allowable items. Coburn’s report explains:
Undercover reporters “witnessed customers leaving with beer, diapers and condoms” paid for with SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at a Food Land store in Memphis, Tennessee. Technically, the purchase of these items is not permitted, but the practice goes on. In Ohio, another local television station reported in February that food stamps paid not only for beer and cigarettes, but also guns and cars.
In Florida, an exotic dancer who made more than $85,000 a year in tips also collected about $1,000 in food stamps a month between March 2010 and June 2012. During that time, she spent more than $9,000 on “cosmetic enhancements.” She has pled guilty to food stamp fraud but claims the plastic surgery and “other splurges were all gifts from men she met working as a dancer at adult entertainment clubs.”
Still, despite all of this, the Obama administration has pursued marketing campaigns to promote the government welfare program, with advertisements contending that SNAP spending is a tremendous contributor to economic growth. Of course, if there’s something to be said, the programs may be boosting sales numbers for energy drink companies, fast food giants, and even the alcohol industry.