Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway Committee on Agriculture Hearing: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Evaluating Error Rates and Anti-Fraud Measures to Enhance Program Integrity

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Washington, July 6, 2016 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery: 

I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank them for taking the time to share their insight on how we can enhance program integrity within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This hearing, builds upon the committee’s top-to-bottom review of SNAP and I hope it will provide a greater understanding of efforts being made to ensure SNAP is run at the highest caliber.

Americans generally support welfare programs to help those who have fallen on hard times, the elderly, children, and disabled individuals who cannot care for themselves. In order to maintain support from American taxpayers, we as legislators and program administrators must ensure that these programs are accountable and transparent.

One way we hold these programs accountable is by tracking the annual error rate. Error rates stem primarily from overpayments or underpayments to SNAP recipients by the states. Compared to other means-tested programs, SNAP has a relatively low error rate of 3.66 percent for FY 2014. But, what does this number tell us? What factors are used in determining the error rate? When comparing error rates across programs, are we really comparing the same criteria?

In addition to error rates, we will also be discussing fraud, and more specifically, trafficking – which occurs when SNAP benefits are exchanged for cash. USDA’s most recent report for trafficking was 1.3 percent, but again, what does that rate really tell us and what additional improvements can be made? Finally, whether we are talking about errors or outright fraud, another key question is who should bear the financial and oversight responsibility for reducing misused dollars. The states or the federal government?

While the error rate for SNAP is relatively low, it translates to more than 2 billion dollars per year in payments that are issued incorrectly.  Programs can always be improved and as the committee responsible for oversight of SNAP, we should always be pushing to ensure that SNAP is working well. Both for the 45 million recipients that rely on food assistance, and for the taxpayers that fund the program. I think that is something we can all agree on here today, and with that said I look forward to hearing from our panel.
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Tags: SNAP