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Ernst: Setting a Place at the Table for Hungry Families

In a time of intense division in Washington, one thing Republicans and Democrats still agree on is that no child should ever go to bed on an empty stomach. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, helps ensure that does not happen. 

But, with rising prices hitting hard and tens of thousands of families across the country waiting in a backlog to be approved for aid, some administrators of the program are jumping the line to snatch up the SNAP dollars, either as a meal ticket to beef up state budgets or a self-serve buffet of benefits all for themselves! 

A New York social services supervisor masterminded a criminal scheme in which she converted SNAP cards into cash by purchasing and reselling mass quantities of Red Bull. 

Another employee responsible for determining SNAP eligibility collected kickbacks issuing ineligible benefits, boasting, “I’ve been rocking this for years.” 

An employee of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services stole the identities of homeless people to register SNAP cards he then used for his own personal shopping sprees. 

A Mississippi food stamp fraud investigator extorted convenience stores in exchange for not pursuing criminal charges against them for defrauding the SNAP program.

Sadly, these inside jobs aren’t limited to just a few rotten apples. Seven states cooked the books, intentionally manipulating the amount of erroneous SNAP payments they made to obtain $60 million set aside to reward states for protecting food stamps from being misspent. 

Along with fraud, bureaucratic blunders also drive up the program's cost. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's estimates, nearly $1 billion of ineligible SNAP benefits go out monthly. Tens of thousands of recipients enrolled in the program do not even qualify for the assistance, and double dippers are getting second helpings of food stamps from multiple states. 

To make matters worse, the true cost of these overpayments is unknown because errors totaling $54 or less are excluded from the total! 

Folks, you don’t get to make errors like this when calculating your taxes, so they shouldn’t be tolerated by those spending your taxes.

To fight back, I’m leading the SNAP Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act to require all errors in this program—regardless of the amount—to be counted. The bill also directs state governments to stop giving out ineligible benefits or eat some of the costs. 

As a farm girl from Iowa, I’m proud our great state feeds America. We are blessed with an abundant bounty and hardworking Iowans labor year-round to bring delicious and nutritious meals from their farms to your table. 

I’ll continue pushing our government to stop over-serving bureaucrats, end the waste, and set a place at the table for hungry families.