South Carolina’s inspector general says food stamp overpayments after 2015’s historic flooding may total more than $10 million.
In an October report, Inspector General Patrick Maley said his office investigated how disaster supplemental food stamps (D-SNAP) were distributed in the aftermath of last year’s record flooding.
There had been concern of fraud by some legislators that the number of people applying for and receiving the benefits were much higher than the number of people affected by flooding in some locations, mainly in Greenville.
The report notes more than 12,700 people applied for one-time D-SNAP benefits in Greenville County, but only 200 applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid. Of those, more than 10,300 applications were approved. The region was not an area heavily impacted by the flooding that drenched the Midlands and Pee Dee regions.
Maley and his staff estimated roughly $10 million of the more than $97 million handed out statewide was overpayment — roughly $3 million it blamed on fraud and the rest due to errors.
However the report does not blame the state Department of Social Services (DSS), which oversees the program in South Carolina. Instead, it notes is that federal US Department of Agriculture guidelines do not require applicants to prove they actually qualify for the disaster aid.
Instead, SNAP recipients in the 24 counties declared as disaster areas could receive increased benefits for a month by simply checking a box certifying they experienced a “disaster-related adverse event” without any explanation of the event. Those appyling for one-time benefits only needed to claim they suffered losses and verify their identification prior to approval. The USDA cited the disaster as reason to relax documentation requirements for other information such as place of residence and property/income loss.
DSS conducted an audit of roughly 9,000 applications statewide, weighted from Upstate counties which sustained little actual flood damage, and found almost 300 of the applications were fraudulent. The Inspector General’s Office applied that sample statewide to reach its estimates.
Maley recommended that DSS in the future require more information and documentation from applicants about their disaster impact, particularly in those areas that are not as hard-hit by disaster.