A new Government Accountability Office report reveals that in more than 40 states a growing number of households are able to collect food-stamp benefits simply by receiving a government-issued brochure or accessing a toll-free number.
For example, in states like Alabama, Hawaii and Montana, a brochure automatically triggers eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In California, Kentucky, Maine and Nebraska, state-issued pamphlets or “resource guides” convey the same eligibility. Other states use a variety of other methods, including notices on the program’s application and a variety of other printed materials.
In states like Delaware, the program application “refers to a pregnancy prevention hotline.” For Oklahoma, SNAP participation may be obtained through a website and an “800 number about marriage classes,” according to a report on SNAP eligibility produced by the Congressional Research Service.
More than $460 million in estimated categorical eligibility payments for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SNAP benefits “would not have been eligible for the program without broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) because their incomes were over the federal SNAP eligibility limits,” according to the GAO report.
The GAO estimates that such payments account for roughly 2.6 percent or 473,000 households receiving SNAP benefits. According to a separate study from the Congressional Budget Office, restrictions on categorical eligibility could save an estimated $11.5 billion over the next 10 years.
Since fiscal year 2001, the number of monthly federal SNAP participants has nearly tripled to 45 million, with corresponding costs over the same time period quadrupling to just under $80 billion, the GAO reported.
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