SNAP Payment Issue Raised for Millions of Americans

Millions of Americans are not receiving the correct amount of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, according to data released by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

Across the country, millions of households are being either underpaid or overpaid.

The overall SNAP payment error rate was 11.68 percent for the 2023 fiscal year, with overpayments at 10.03 percent and underpayments at 1.65 percent.

The error takes place when a state agency incorrectly certifies a household to receive either too much or not enough SNAP benefits.

Errors are mostly due to inaccuracies in how states determine eligibility and benefit amounts rather than fraud, the FNS said.

Washington D.C. had the highest rate of underpayments at 4.58 percent, and Maryland had the second highest at 3.91 percent. The next highest were Delaware at 3.57 percent and Maine at 3.41 percent.

Overpayments were far more common than underpayments, the data showed.

Alaska had the highest rate of overpayments at 59.59 percent, while the second highest was New Jersey at 33.43 percent.

SNAP benefits
A sign alerting customers about SNAP food stamps benefits is displayed in a Brooklyn grocery store on December 5, 2019, in New York City. Millions of Americans were paid incorrect amounts in 2023.

Scott Heins/Getty Images

SNAP benefits are government-provided payments that help low-income individuals and families in the U.S. purchase food and sundries to support their households.

They are paid for by the federal government and distributed by state and local authorities, and involve money being loaded onto electronic benefit transfer cards each month to be used in participating stores.

“SNAP is a cornerstone of our nation’s safety net, and accurate benefits are crucial for families in need and for public trust,” administrator for the FNS Cindy Long said in a press release.

“We cannot tolerate high error rates in a program that impacts millions of lives. States must take immediate action to improve the accuracy of SNAP payments—or they will face financial penalties.”

The United States Department of Agriculture has requested funds in the president’s FY25 Budget to improve SNAP payment accuracy and program integrity, including funding for quality control, computer systems, and a new Office of Training and Development.

All states that had poor error rates this year will be required to submit a corrective action plan to address the root causes of errors to improve payment accuracy, the department said.

“We are sending a clear message to all states: accuracy in SNAP is non-negotiable,” Long said. “We expect state leadership at all levels to be fully engaged in this effort to improve.”

Newsweek reached out to the USDA for comment via email outside of regular working hours.