Saturday, March 8, 2014

State Budget Gimmicks Halt Federal Food Stamp Spending Reform

States Veto Food Stamp Cuts as $8.6 Billion Deal Fades

  Mar 7, 2014  excepted:
Congress last month passed a revamp of agriculture and food policy that was supposed to save the U.S. government $8.6 billion in food-stamp costs over a decade.
That may not happen now that some states are finding a way to avoid the cuts. 
In fact, states have always gamed the Federal system as this paragraph from the Washington Post describes using other assistance programs..
 -- Ending the heating "loophole." The bill would cut food stamp benefits for 850,000 households in 17 states by about $90 per month. It does so by tweaking the rules of a federal heating assistance program that some states had been using to boost food-stamp eligibility. In essence, some states had been assuming that people had higher heating bills than they actually did to let them qualify for food aid.
 Now back to the Bloomberg article:
New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania are triggering extra nutrition spending by adding money to a home-heating subsidy tied to increased food-stamp aid. The move feeds needy families while thwarting spending-reduction goals.
Deficit watchers say they’re disappointed, while anti-hunger activists are lobbying other states to do the same. If more follow, the federal government would have to spend much of the $8.6 billion it planned to save, as states reduce spending on other programs to meet the new mandate.
“Some states will be able to do it, some states will not be able to -- no one knows for how long they’ll be able to do it,” Connecticut Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro said in an interview at the Capitol. “They have jumped into the breach where the federal government abdicated its responsibility.”

Energy Assistance

Some of that food aid is tied to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also known by its acronym, LIHEAP.
Under the previous farm law, states that gave residents as little as $1 a year in home-heating assistance -- a move nicknamed “heat-and-eat” -- could qualify that person’s household for an average of $1,080 in additional food stamps annually from the U.S. government.
About 15 states and the District of Columbia did just that, catching the attention of lawmakers who sought savings through the farm bill.
“States were gaming the system,” Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts said last month.
The new law raises to $20 a year the home-heating aid needed for a household to get extra food-stamp money. The idea is that most of those 15 states will stop qualifying residents for the food aid and save the U.S. government money. 

New York

That’s not happening in New York. The state said it raised home-heating spending by $6 million, triggering an additional $457 million a year in federal food-stamp spending to about 300,000 households.
Lawmakers who supported even deeper cuts to food stamps than those eventually included in the farm law criticize states for using the rules to erode savings.

Connecticut’s Governor

Connecticut is spending an extra $1.4 million to preserve federal food-stamp money for about 50,000 households, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy said the day before Cuomo’s announcement. Pennsylvania said March 5 it will spend $8 million to preserve $300 million in food-stamp funding for up to 400,000 families.

About 47 million Americans got food stamps in November, the latest month data were available, the USDA said Feb. 7.
Almost half of all food stamps are redeemed at big-box retail chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), while most of the rest are used at supermarkets such as Safeway Inc., (SWY) according to data collected by Bloomberg.
 Food Stamp Fraud is always downplayed in the main stream media, but it is not insignificant.
Include erroneous payments to recipients because of errors on the part of the government or outright lying on applications, and the overall loss to the food stamp program is about 4.07 percent, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Although the sheer size of the program means that more than $3 billion is lost to trafficking, fraud and overpayments each year, the rate is less than other government programs, according to federal audits

Spending on 'food stamps and nutritional programs' is over 75% of the spending the the Farm Bill, further entwining the interests of corporations and the supports of BIG government spending.
 Federal spending on food stamps -- formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- has more than doubled in the past five years, with most of the money spent at retailers including Supervalu Inc. (SVU) and Kroger Co. (KR) The program cost a record $79.9 billion in fiscal 2013, almost one-eighth of the roughly $650 billion a year Americans spend on groceries.

Attempts to reform, control or cut any program isn't really possible, because fiction and FRAUD is what BIG government and it's supporters do best.