Oh, SNAP! NM has mixed numbers on food stamp efficiency

By Rob Nikolewski on August 12, 2013
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By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE – New Mexico has one of the highest rates in the country for people receiving food stamps, but how accurately those benefits are distributed is decidedly mixed.

A look by at the latest national statistics from the federal government shows both good news and bad.

IT’S NOT JUST A SNAP: New Mexico has improved its rate of mistakes when it comes to food stamps but remains above the national average for error rates.

On the positive side, the error rate for New Mexico has gone down by a healthy margin in the most recent six fiscal years studied by — from an to . That represents a cut in the percentage of mistakes by fully one-half.

The bad news?

The error rate is still above the ,and in fiscal 2011 that translated into $22.57 million the state overpaid to recipients of food stamps — the .

“We’re managing the program more effectively,” said Matt Kennicott, spokesman for the , which oversees SNAP distribution in New Mexico.

Here’s a look at the states (including the District of Columbia) with the best and worst error rates in fiscal 2012:


A look at the data over the past six fiscal years shows that New Mexico’s error rate has always been above the national average.

That could be explained by the sheer number of New Mexico residents receiving food stamps. More than one in five residents of New Mexico receive SNAP benefits (21 percent), tied for third with as the states with the highest percentage of the population getting food stamps.

But there doesn’t appear be much of a relationship between the percentage of a state’s population on SNAP and the error rates.

For example, four of the states that also have 20 percent or more of their residents receiving SNAP benefits — Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisana.

A little known fact: There’s money to be made for states that do the most accurate jobs distributing SNAP benefits.

The among the states that have the lowest error rates or show the most improvement. For example, Florida received more than $8 million for having the lowest error rate in the country, and Alabama received $1.8 million for reducing their mistakes by the largest percentage and finishing eighth in the nation for having lowest error rate.

The number of Americans receiving food stamps has reached a record high.

The rate increased 2.4 percent in May, bringing the total number to , which translates into 47.6 million.

The reasons?

First, the nation’s lagging economic numbers coming out of the recession and, second, in the 2002 farm bill under then-President George W. Bush, which was in the 2009 stimulus package.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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10 Comments For This Post So Far

  1. qofdisks
    9:05 pm on August 12th, 2013

    What does constitute an error in food stamps? Are there examples? How serious can an error be when it comes to feeding people? Better to ERR on the side of human well being. Are they referring to the error of underfeeding children or the disabled?
    I am have a conversation with a disabled person about how we raid gardens and especially fruit and nut trees of abandoned houses. That person struggles to get her required calories each day. I would call that struggle to eat enough an error indeed.

  2. 10:14 am on August 13th, 2013

    I find it odd that intolerance for fraud gets interpreted as a lack of compassion. If the government is capable of analyzing phone records for national security, tracking the issuance and use of EBT cards should be fairly easy. There’s nothing compassionate about permitting people who do not need food stamps to game the system or use EBT cards fraudulently. If we are truly interested in helping the genuinely needy, we can best do so by kicking crooks off the food stamp program.

  3. Bill Hilbert
    10:49 am on August 13th, 2013

    This administration is killing this country. Get a jobs program going, get these people a job, stop the hand outs for a vote. Lack of compassion my butt, it is me, me, me all the time…………something for nothing……..Our leaders are NOT

  4. lefty
    11:46 am on August 13th, 2013

    Qofdisks . . . “how serious can an error be when it comes to feeding people?”
    Your post highlights what I believe are common mistakes people ignorant of economic reality make regularly. First you equate dollars paid out with “feeding people” . . . not at all accurate. Many people use these funds for non-food purposes. Second, when economies are stressed by either too much population or too little economic productivity (real value versus government faux value) then in time it erodes our economic foundation and we WILL all suffer some day. Finally you imply that because we want funds to go to people who really need funds (temporarily not permanently) that we lack compassion for people who need health. Nothing could be more of a cultural lie! We want our tax dollars to be spent on those in need and challenging the bureaucracy is not a lack of compassion.

  5. qofdisks
    4:16 am on August 14th, 2013

    The article said error, not fraud. There is a difference. What exactly does “error” mean in context of feeding people. Whose error are we referring, the recipients or the issuers? If it is fraud that is being committed, then call it fraud and be specific as to what constitutes this fraud.
    I agree that the population is too high for available resources and available employment. Until our culture shifts away from a religious mandate to ignore human nature and continues promote indiscriminate breeding, this problem will only get worse.
    Even so, we are obliged to take care of our human population as a civilization regardless. You seem to imply that the need for “funds” is temporary. The need is not temporary regardless of the source of funding be it through employment or otherwise. The private job market is grim in this economic environment so government has to step in to feed the population. Would you have people starving in our streets? Those in need are higher in numbers during hard times and challenging the bureaucracy in a time of dire need does show a lack of compassion. The bureaucracy that implements social safety nets need our support and oversight but, that is different than beleaguering and cutting funding for the hungry.

  6. qofdisks
    5:25 pm on August 14th, 2013

    “Earlier this summer Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives removed food stamps from their traditional place alongside agribusiness subsidies in farm legislation Congress passes every five years. Republicans then passed a “farm only” farm bill, leaving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s fate uncertain.”

    “Now Republicans are planning separate legislation that would cut SNAP by 5 percent and would result in several million fewer Americans receiving benefits.”

  7. 6:22 pm on August 14th, 2013

    Decoupling food stamps from the farm bill is long overdue. It’s a welfare program that no longer has anything to do with agricultural policy, and merits separate consideration.

    Considering the rate at which the food stamp program has grown, a 5 percent cut is a good start. When I was a corporate manager, a 5 percent budget cut was considered a normal year.

    A modest budget cut would give administrators of the food stamp program some choices. If they are competent and compassionate, they can easily absorb a 5 percent cut by trimming staff, clamping down on fraud and reviewing eligibility to cut recipients who no longer need food stamps.

    Or, they could cut benefits to the truly needy to blackmail Congress into rescinding the budget cut. But that would be petty and really heartless, and I can’t imagine a public servant doing something like that.

  8. qofdisks
    4:48 am on August 15th, 2013

    Perhaps this is closer to being the error. The constant looking for “error” has made the system so arduous and humiliating that people give up the benefit even if they need it.

    Food Stamps Avoided By Millions Of Eligible Americans

  9. qofdisks
    3:16 am on August 21st, 2013

    Another one and from the comments:
    ” The Con Pols are convinced that there has to be (5+ / 0-)
    a credible threat of starvation to enforce the culture of obedience. Someobody has to serve as an examplar of what “No free lunch” means.
    Moreover, obedience isn’t real unless the demands are surreal. Voluntary compliance doesn’t count. Coerced obedience is sort of the companion to power, which has to hurt to be felt.
    by hannah ”

  10. Dale
    3:18 pm on October 10th, 2013

    Qofdisks, you seem to have a great deal of compassion… as long as it involves spending other people’s money.

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