(VitalNews.org) – A government watchdog has revealed that over 65,000 lottery winners continued to claim food stamps, despite their winnings taking them over the income limit and rendering them ineligible for federal assistance. The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) reviewed the data for 13 states since 2019 and found that despite winning sums between $4,250 and $2,000,000, tens of thousands of people continued to receive help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
While nearly 400 people were removed from the SNAP program following a substantial lottery win, the vast majority of winners remained on the program, something that data and analytics director for the FGA, Hayden Dublois says “defies belief”. The FGA also made clear that the data only covers 13 states, as those states were the only ones to provide answers to the group’s requests for data, and so the problem is likely to be even larger when all states are taken into account.
Across the US, 41.8 million people are enrolled on the SNAP program, a number which increased by 5 million during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food stamps cost the nation $120 billion per year, a figure which has doubled since 2019, despite the number of people claiming only increasing by approximately one-eighth in that same time frame.
Multiple suggestions have been made by both the FGA and by Republican lawmakers as to how to reduce the number of illegitimate claims and so reduce the federal bill. Republican Representative Ben Cline introduced in June the No Welfare for the Wealthy Act, which would set out both income and asset eligibility criteria for SNAP claimants, which would prevent those with significant sums of money in their possession from receiving assistance. Republican Senator Joni Ernst introduced a bill which she argued would save the government nearly $1 billion each month, simply by necessitating all errors to be accounted for and by forcing states to swallow some of the costs should they incorrectly hand out federal aid.
Hayden Dublois of the FGA recommends that the government close the loophole that allows states to disregard the need for asset tests. He argues that if states were forced to carry out asset tests for all applicants, they would save $100 billion over the next 10 years.
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