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$11 Billion SNAP Mistake: Will You Pay the Price?

$11 Billion SNAP Mistake: Will You Pay the Price?

The government overpaid $11 billion in food stamps in 2022. That’s an enormous sum of money and Senator Ernst wants it back.

She’s behind the Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act, a bill that could force low income Americans to pay back any extra SNAP benefits they received.

In this article, we’ll explore what that Act is, what it does, who is affected, and what you can do about it.

What is the Snap Back Act?

The Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act is a bill proposed by Iowa’s Senator Joni Ernst. This proposal is actually very short. It is just three pages long!

This bill would amend the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 to accomplish the following:

  • Reduce the reporting threshold for overpayments
  • Force states to repay higher amounts for errors
  • Directing states to get money back from people who got more than they were eligible for

Currently, states only have to report overpayments if they are valued at more than $54 per person. This bill would drop that limit to $0 per person, ensuring that any overpayment of any amount would be reported.

For the most part, the Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act aims to accomplish these goals through very minor tweaks to the wording of the current law. For example, by swapping out the word “may” for the word “shall” in a specific clause, Senator Ernst aims to ensure that states are liable for their overpayment mistakes. She also swapped out “10 percent” for “25 percent” to increase the amount of money that would have to be repaid.

The biggest change proposed by this Act is the introduction of a new paragraph which simply states:

RECOUPMENT OF OVERPAYMENTS. — Each State agency shall seek to recoup any overpayments of benefits made to benefit recipients.

S. 2923, 118th Congress 1st Session

That means that States will have to repay the federal government and then recoup their money by getting it from the people who were overpaid. That may not sound like a problem but the New York Post reported that nearly 80% of these overpayments are the result of government error. Many people who are being overpaid may not even know it’s happening until they are ordered to repay!

Why is this happening?

The Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act is a direct response to three significant problems that the United States Government is facing right now. All of those problems center around one common theme: the government has budget problems.

Over $11.2 billion in ineligible payments were made in 2022, which means the government spent a lot of money on benefits that shouldn’t have been paid. That’s a lot of money and it’s understandable why the government would want it back.

It is estimated that the government still spends $1 billion per month on benefits that aren’t actually owed. Senator Ernst wants to stop those payments from being sent.

Unfortunately, it appears that nearly 80% of those overpayments are due to government errors. That means that the people who are receiving that money aren’t intentionally getting overpaid. Most of them aren’t even aware that it’s happening. Forcing those people to pay the money back will create a tremendous hardship for low income Americans who are already suffering.

Of course, it appears that Senator Ernst’s overall goal is to fix the overpayments from happening in the first place by ensuring accuracy in SNAP calculations. She points to the fact that seven states have manipulated their data in order to get more than $60 million in bonuses and rewards from the federal government that they weren’t really eligible for. That needs to stop.

By forcing the states to eat the cost of their overpayments, the Senator hopes to ensure that the federal government doesn’t spend more on SNAP than necessary. However, the legislation also directs the states to take that money back from people who already received it, which can make low income Americans struggle even harder than they already are.

Who would be affected?

Under the current draft of this proposal, any low income American who received more food stamps than they were eligible for may be subject to repayment. We really won’t know until/unless the Snap Back Act passes and states start sending letters to those who have been identified as overpaid.

If you are told that you need to repay the state, they should send you a letter with more information and instructions. You can usually appeal this decision or negotiate payment arrangements.

If you are still receiving benefits, then the state will usually withhold some (or all) of your future benefits to make up for the amount that you owe. This can be extremely painful, especially considering that recent data from the Census Bureau shows that half of SNAP households are already skipping meals due to inflation.

If you are no longer receiving benefits, you may be compelled to make payments. The state will contact if you if they find that you’ve been overpaid and they’ll give you instructions on how to set up a payment plan and make those payments. Many states have the option to pay online.

When will it take effect?

The Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act was introduced to Congress on September 26, 2023. The Act was read twice and then referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. You can track the latest action on this Act using the legislative search tools on the Congress website.

The Act is written in such a way that it would take effect in 2024 if it passes. However, at this time, it is not clear if or when the Act would become law.

It is important to stay apprised of bills like this because Congress needs to make decisions about the Farm Bill soon. The new Farm Bill was due in September but Congress extended it, pending the passage of new legislation.

Small proposals like the Snap Back Act are often “marker bills,” which end up being absorbed into larger bills like the Farm Bill. It’s important to take action now on the bills you support so that your lawmakers know which ones you’d like to have become law.

What can I do?

When a proposed piece of legislation is before Congress, you can reach out to your elected Congressional representatives to voice your opinion. You can do this for any issue but it’s especially effective when you’re talking about something Congress is currently considering.

There are several SNAP-related proposals before Congress right now, including the Keep Kupuna Fed Act which would provide more food benefits to seniors who rely on Social Security.

You can use the Congress.gov search tool to find your elected officials. Contact them via phone or email to voice your thoughts on these bills.

Summary

The Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act would force low income Americans to repay SNAP overpayments, even if they didn’t know that they were being overpaid. It would make several changes to the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 that would save the federal government money, put more responsibility on the states, and compel repayments for any mistakes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program calculation.

Nicole is the owner and lead researcher for Low Income Relief. She has over 20 years of professional research and writing experience, and she has been solely dedicated to investigating low income topics for the last 10 years. Nicole started Low Income Relief after a personal experience with poverty. When her husband was medically discharged from the US Army, their family experienced tremendous financial hardship. Nicole was able to gather help from multiple community agencies and move into a nearby low income housing unit in just two weeks! Since then, Nicole has been dedicated to helping low income families in crisis. She regularly spends hundreds of hours combing through countless resources to make sure that Low Income Relief has the most comprehensive and complete resource directories on the internet today. Prior to starting Low Income Relief, Nicole worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. Her work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, The Daily Herald, The Chronicle and more. Her work has also been featured by Google for Publishers and other leading industry publications.

Angela

Monday 9th of October 2023

This is BS! This sounds like an excuse or the government is scapegoating us that are low income families. Their making up this phony act because the U.S. government is in debt with China and they don't have the money to pay them back. It sucks that the government and their corrupted politicians who think of nothing but themselves and their well being are so desperate that they're going to force us the poor to pay back for something we didn't ask for or were never aware of? That's unconstitutional! All because these politicians are over spending with their lavish lifestyles while us the poor eat more s$%! This is what happens when us citizens allow the government to have power over us.

Cherri Rippenkroeger

Sunday 8th of October 2023

-OH & ANOTHER THING!!! Here They’re Feeding & taking care of all the immigrants coming across the border, 200,000 just in one month, last month In September they said on the News. We’re paying for all their expenses & We’re sending BILLIONS TO The Ukraine, & they need help. -But dang, What about us Americans who are Already Citizens who paid in our taxes & FICA & Everything before we got either Disabled or those who Retired & even waited for the maximum payout. It’s such a Crooked System that the Super wealthy & corrupt, do Evil’s upon those of us who through no fault of our own that our government/politicians have become so corrupt (not all of them), but how can they expect us to pay back when they’ve been spending billions on others that aren’t even in the USA or paid taxes & so on…

Cherri Rippenkroeger

Sunday 8th of October 2023

I am a 59yo’ Severely disabled lady whose had my neck broken by a sex predator in 2003. I ended up having (15) 1.5inch screws, a long metal rod & metal plate & almost every neck vertebrae to be bone grafted & fused to regrow it back together. -But I fell down 5 yrs later & shattered 7 more vertebrae in the middle of my spine & w/i 5 more yrs, spinal column collapsed by 5.3inches & then Cerebral Spinal Fluid started building up inside the center of my brain & began causing great vision issues & loss of vision & a Continual Massive Migraine & a loud explosion noise like a bomb going off upon every heartbeat inside of my brain. -Supposedly called; Encephalitis, Intercranial Hypertension & Dual Bilateral Pulsatile Tinnitus. -So it never ever stops doing this action ever at all! Additionally my heart began starting to try failing & discovered I have a defective heart valve & that I’ve been in & out of the hospital so many times now & had so many invasive Surgeries that I’ve lost count now. -But most of them have been done over a decade ago now, but Unfortunately now I have Colon Cancer too. -which I already kinda knew but didn’t want to have to deal w/ it & so I kept putting it off for an extremely long, long time. Now I’m really in trouble & beyond overwhelmed. I had been raped during my youth & It left me w/ not EVER BEING ABLE to handle anyone messing w/ me down in the private region’s of my body & so now my digestive system is SHOT! I was already struggling with being able to being able to afford green house grown foods, -Since I have Severe Celiac disease & IBD, Erosion & extreme constriction of my Esophagus due to constant contact w/ ??? of other things put in the foods, like emulsifiers, preservatives & food additives such as fillers & binders, flow agents, such as Magnesium Stearate, which sounds like a good thing, but it’s not!-It’s a toxin! And So are a bunch of things like the zero calorie fake sugars. And like as many other digestive diseases, that the ONLY Foods I can eat can NOT Have a Gluten’s or cross-contamination & including Glyphosate/ the stuff that’s in Roundup weed killer spray. And many other numerous other toxins & things that even tho’ I wash my produce with Biokleen, it still doesn’t get all the nooks & crannies & So most of my kinds of foods have to be grown w/o any chemicals added, ( like in a green house) & those kinds of foods cost's a whole lot more than just the regular foods. I’m not even able to find any farmers markets locally, that have any foods grown Certified Organic & w/o any toxic chemicals used or else cleanly & grown in a greenhouse either. Now, I am terrified that they will try taking what little amount that they give me away & Where will I be able to find the kind of foods I can only eat? I’m sure that there has to be others like myself or worse who are also barely able to eat those toxic sprayed & things added to the foods too be able to get by & like myself, I always run out of foods & money about 10 days, sometimes 2wks, before the next SSDI payday. -but I have no idea what ppl’ like myself & others of us will do if this loss of our Snap benefits are reduced or not given. Please?, does anyone know or have any other ideas of what a 98% bedfast person can do to find & get help for Foods that haven’t been sprayed with Glyphosate or have Gluten’s for those of us who are sick & physically & mentally disabled people??? TY & Bless All whom are here & also VERY, Very grateful to Nicole & any others also trying to help.

Rose

Friday 6th of October 2023

This country is failing bad. To think the low income people will be able to repay for their mistakes. They don't even know how to help homeless people. Just leave them to fend for themselves. So sad. But we pay for other countries wars. I can go on on about this and nothing will happen.

Cherri Rippenkroeger

Sunday 8th of October 2023

@Rose, I AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY WITH YOU!!!

Joan Fuchs

Saturday 7th of October 2023

@Rose, I agree with you totally. Why aren't we doing anything about this JERKS in office, I don't understand why everyone isn't sick of their BS. Well It's pitiful we put up with it.

Leaaron Gay

Friday 6th of October 2023

Thank you for notifying us Mrs. Thelin but would they notify us via mail or online or....And is there a list of people and what is time period to pay back or the amounts if correct?

Catherine Marucci

Tuesday 10th of October 2023

Hi Leaaron. They would have to notify you by mail.