Audit raises concern with system for monitoring food assistance program

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway raised concern about the system the Department of Social Services uses to monitor the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in an audit released Tuesday.

This audit found hundreds of thousands of SNAP transactions that raised red flags, but were not seriously investigated by the Department of Social Services,” Galloway said in a statement.

According to the audit, the DSS has contracted since June 2011 with a third-party provider that administers Missouri’s SNAP program. As of January 2014, whenever the system detects suspicious activity patterns, it generates an alert that is sent to DSS investigators. The audit says “the alerts are not always reviewed by staff and the DSS does not consistently investigate potentially high risk recipient behavior.”

Issues highlighted in the audit included out-of-state use of Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, or EBT cards.

“SNAP recipients in 3,837 cases used their EBT cards exclusively outside the state during the entire 2-year audit period,” the audit says. “While federal regulations allow SNAP recipients to use their EBT cards out-of-state, recipients must live within the state in which they apply for benefits.”

DSS officials cited reasons why recipients might be using EBT cards out of state, such as military service or caring for ill family members. Additionally, “recipients are not required to inform the state if they move out-of-state until their next scheduled case eligibility redetermination,” the audit says.

The audit also found people whose EBT cards were used while they were incarcerated or deceased, by comparing death records and Department of Corrections records with 2015-2016 SNAP records. The audit reports more than 3,600 cases in which SNAP benefits were used 30 or more days after the recipient’s death.

“Upon closing a case due to a recipient’s death, new cases were generally opened for the remaining household members,” the audit said, but still recommended immediately expunging EBT card benefits upon notification of a recipient’s death.

The audit also “found 62 individuals who received SNAP benefits but were incarcerated during the entire January 2015 to December 2016 period.” More than $50,000 in purchases were made by those 62 individuals’ EBT cards during that time.

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