This is the third Dear Colleague in a series of educational materials designed to inform and educate Members of Congress and staff about SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps. Contrary to the political rhetoric being used by some, SNAP is a safety-net program that helps middle- and low-income individuals and families put food on their tables. In other words, it prevents hunger in America.
The common misconception about SNAP, however, is that it is fraught with fraud, waste and abuse. Many have decried SNAP as a handout that can be sold or traded for alcohol and other items that shouldn't be purchased with taxpayer funds. It cannot. SNAP is both effective and efficient. In fact, the error rate for SNAP is not only at an all-time low; it is among the lowest -- if not the lowest -- error rate among any federal program. SNAP's payment error rate was 3.81% in 2010, the most recent data available. Diving deeper into this error rate, we see that only 3% of all SNAP benefits represented overpayments, meaning they either went to ineligible households or that eligible households received a higher benefit than they should have received. In fact, less than 2% of all SNAP benefits went to ineligible people. That means more than 98% of the benefits went to people who are eligible for the program. Compare this, for example, to the most recent IRS data that shows that the tax noncompliance rate was 16.9% in 2006, a noncompliance rate that represented a $385 billion loss.
It's clear that SNAP is not only an effective program but that it is also an efficient one. It's also clear that SNAP is not the program its detractors try to portray.
I will continue to circulate similar reports, fact sheets and news articles about SNAP and its role preventing hunger. I will continue to correct the misconceptions and misleading comments that are being perpetuated by those who don't know much about the program or are opposed to it.
James P. McGovern
Member of Congress