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off the charts

SNAP Errors Falling Across the Country

We recently pointed out that SNAP (food stamp) errors nationally hit another all-time low last year.  The improvement has been widespread across the country, as a comparison of states’ “combined error rates” — the share of benefits that are overpayments or underpayments — shows.

Between 2002 (before new rules for state penalties and performance bonuses took effect) and 2013, the number of states with combined error rates under 6 percent jumped from 13 to 47.  At the other end of the spectrum, the number of states with combined error rates over 10 percent fell from nine to zero (see chart).


The large drop in error rates has dramatically raised the bar for the annual bonuses that the Agriculture Department (USDA) gives states with relatively low or significantly improved error rates.  The average combined payment error rate of states receiving bonuses fell from 4.6 percent in 2002 to 1.6 percent in 2013.

The drop in error rates has also raised the bar for states to avoid penalties for poor performance.  Eleven of the 17 states that USDA identified as poor performers in 2013 due to their relatively high errors have combined error rates under 6 percent, which in 2002 would have qualified them for bonuses for exceptional performance.