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Setting the Record Straight: Safety Net Dollars Go to People — Not Red Tape

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed this week that just 30 percent of the dollars spent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) actually benefit program participants.  The truth, plain and simple:  that figure is way off.  We’ve pointed this out, and fact checkers from the Washington Post and PolitiFact failed Bachmann on their tests of accuracy.

In fact, almost 95 percent of federal spending on SNAP goes toward providing benefits to eligible households to purchase food.  What’s more, states achieved a record-low SNAP error rate in fiscal year 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program.  Only 3 percent of all SNAP benefits represented overpayments, meaning they either went to ineligible households or went to eligible households but in excessive amounts, and more than 98 percent of SNAP benefits were issued to eligible households.

And SNAP is in good company among safety net programs.  As we’ve explained and the chart below illustrates, at least nine-tenths of federal spending — and in most cases, more — for programs including Medicaid, housing vouchers, and Supplemental Security Income reaches low-income Americans.