According to 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.
Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) new archive of government waste, entitled the 2012 “Waste Book,” 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.
Detailed under the section “More money for the marijuana munchies,” Coburn reported that in three states some recipients collected SNAP benefits simply because they smoke marijuana. “Marijuana has been linked to an increased appetite, known as getting the ‘munchies,’ so perhaps it is no surprise the states of Maine, New Mexico, and Oregon gave extra food stamp benefits to users of the illegal drug,” the report affirms. It continues:
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. In Oregon, the deduction “[i]ncluded … 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.” It is not known how many recipients claimed the deduction. The director of the Maine Office of Family Independence does not know how many individuals received extra food stamp benefits as a result of marijuana use.
Seeming to disregard First Lady Michelle Obama’s so-called “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.
Approximately $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 billions of dollars 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.
While the food stamps program was recently rebranded as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the government remains lax in its requirements over nutritious foods. “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.”