North Dakota Overpaid Food Stamps Recipients By $3.7 Million In 2011


Maybe this is why Democrats are dead-set against separating food stamps policies from agriculture policies in the farm bill so they can be debated on their own merits.

According to a USDA quality control report for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), North Dakota overpaid food stamps recipients by millions of dollars.

The report, representing the latest numbers available, was issued in December of 2012 and covers fiscal year 2011.

In that year, North Dakota issued $3,706,860 worth of over-payments to food stamps recipients, while underpaying recipients by $455,996. That adds up to $4,162,856 in inaccurate payments.

In total, North Dakota paid $95,918,344 to food stamps recipients over the course of the year.

North Dakota had a 6.27% error rate when it comes to over-payment of food stamps benefits, and a 2.09% error rate when it comes to under-payment. It’s hard to imagine which private sector business would tolerate that number of mistakes. Would Verizon stay in business if more than 5% of its national billing were inaccurate in a given year? Not only would their business be hurt, one would think it would be a major story for consumer advocates.

Nationally, $71.8 billion in food stamps payments were paid out in 2011 with $2.1 billion of those funds being over-issued.

According to the report, the average monthly case load for the food stamps program in North Dakota in 2011 was 27,265. The average monthly distribution in benefits was $7,501,709, or $275 per case.

Nationally, the food stamps program had an average of 20,000,753 cases per month paying out roughly $5.2 billion. The average allotment per case was $280.

The report also indicates that a significant amount of food stamp dollars – 6.01% – went to “non-citizens.” Nationally 9.29% of food stamps payments went to non-citizens. Payments to non-citizens in North Dakota made up just 4.24% of payments made in error.

SNAP 2011 Quality Control Report

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Rick Olson

    That’s if people can even QUALIFY for food stamps in North Dakota. North Dakota is one of the toughest states in which to qualify for public assistance. My wife and I only cleared about $19,000 last year and we were told by the county social services department that we make too much money to even qualify for food stamps!!

    $19,000 is definitely poverty level income and we don’t qualify for food stamps. Something’s wrong with that equation!!

    • Matthew Hawkins

      You are a Republican requesting food stamps?
      Isn’t that hypocritical.

      • Rob

        That would be predicated on the idea that republicans oppose a safety net of any kind. That’s not true.

        Personally, I’m fine with a safety net. I’m not fine with a hammock.

        • SDJammer

          But the safety net needs to be at the city/county level. The federal government should never be involved. First, that is not an area the federal government should be involved in and second is the mere commonsense argument that they are way too remote from the problem.

          If we followed the concepts of the Founding Fathers most of these needs could be met through family and church (faith based organizations). The Founders strongly believed in a scale of responsibility for the truly needy that were unable to care for themselves. This scale of responsibility was”

          State (in extreme emergencies like devastating storms)
          But NEVER the federal government.

          Of course the first step is to determine TRUE need and this is logistically impossible for a remote federal program. That is why there is so much fraud and abuse. However, somebody at the local government level could check on the issues affecting the need with the recipients family and church.

          Many times these people and organizations have declined to offer assistance simply because the recipient has some type of behavioral problem (drugs, alcohol, laziness, etc.) that they refuse to correct. In which case, welfare assistance only continues to enable the bad behavior. Sometimes the right answer is “NO”.

          I am not sure how you ever stop this train wreck called food stamps. Perhaps the first step is to strip it out of the Farm Bill.

          South Dakotans have a problem in that Republican Representative Noem is a supporter of keeping the food stamp program married to the Farm Bill. I think conservatives need to apply immense pressure for all elected Republican legislators to reverse that position and help lead the effort in dismantling the food stamp program.

      • Onslaught1066

        Pssssssst! hey retard, your tin foil is on a little tight there fella’.

      • Rick Olson

        You should try making a living on $500 every two weeks. It’s beyond difficult. It’s nearly impossible. My wife and I have cut everything down to the barest of living expenses.

        I have no problem with people asking for help if they need it. What I do have a problem with is all these people coming in to where I work so smug and with no incentive to work, and expect that we the taxpayers must finance their lifestyles. Yep. I got one heck of a big problem with that!!

        But until Congress has the guts to make changes in the system, nothing’s ever going to change. It is up to the states to administer such things as the SNAP/Food Stamp Program in their respective states.

        But at least my wife and I work honest jobs for an honest day’s pay. Despite how little the money actually stretches these days.

      • Gern Blanston

        Only to an idiot who hasn’t a clue about he real meaning of conservative values.

      • RCND

        Are you stereotyping? Being prejudiced? Wow… an argument might even be able to be stretched for sexist and racist here if we try. What a bigot

    • realitybasedbob

      Makes ya think twice about people the radical right call moochers, doesn’t it?

      • Rob

        You’re saying that none of these programs are abused by people who, rightfully, should be called moochers?

        • realitybasedbob

          No rube, but thanks for doing your typical put words in people’s mouths and then believing your lie.

          Here’s a shocker for ya, rube: there has been and always will be someone who will cheat. Should we shut the whole thing down or perhaps hire a few more people to catch the cheaters. They certainly will pay for themselves with the cheaters they catch.

          • Rob

            Well jeez, Boob, you’re the guy who thinks anyone wanting to reform food stamps hates poor people and wants them to starve.

            Given the massive expansion of the program in recent years, can’t we at least agree that it has expanded benefits to a lot of people who really don’t need them?

            We probably can’t, and there’s the rub.

          • realitybasedbob

            Again with the words in mouth and believing your lies?

            Best re-read the shocker alert above, rube.

          • Gern Blanston

            Classic ass-move. Ignore the post; call names; do what you accuse others of doing.

          • rbb

            Oh, well, thank goodness you’re not a name caller, because that would just be, well, hypocritical.

            rube calls me boob, I call him rube. That’s how it’s always been.

          • Gern Blanston

            Sorry – let me repost:
            Classic ass-move. Ignore the post; do what you accuse others of doing.

      • JoeMN

        Yet it’s the “moocher” or the permanently entitled who drain the resources from those who truly need them.

        And what’s worse is a political party which farms these moochers for their vote by standing on the needy.

    • realitybasedbob

      Those $15 an hour burger flippers are probably could be grossing $30,000.
      That’s $60,000 if you two want to go out and earn a living.

      Out Of Work? Go to North Dakota! There’s a Hiring BOOM! Even McDonald’s pays $15 an hour!

      • Rob

        All the stuff advising people to come to North Dakota to find work is really doing a lot of harm. Yes, there are a ton of opportunities here, but if you come here you need to have a plan. You can’t just show up and someone will give you a job.

        • realitybasedbob

          Be a bro and email Mr. Olsen about those opportunities because all he and his wife could find was $19,000 between the two of them and they’re trying to get you and me to give them money.

          Do you suspect he is a moocher in booming NoDak?

          • Rob

            Mr. Olsen – no offense to him and his wife – is an anecdote. I don’t know his work history. I don’t know about his education, job performance, etc.

            There may be reasons why he can’t command more in the labor market that have more to do with him and the labor market.

            On the whole, personal incomes in ND are rising. Unemployment is at rock-bottom lows. Employers are desperate for workes. And yet, foods stamps enrollment is expanding.

            There’s something very, very wrong with that picture.

        • realitybasedbob

          rube, did you ever find out why the Minot post office is inundated with people who do not need the post office?

          • Rob

            If you weren’t such a shallow thinker, you’d know that people go to the post office because there is plenty of need for things like parcel services.

            The postal service is unprofitable because it is forced, by government mandate, to offer other services like door-to-door letter service 6 days a week at unprofitably low prices.

        • Rick Olson

          Exactly. People think they can just show up here and a job will be waiting for them. Wrong. A lot of employers are very picky about the people they hire. For example, an applicant must have directly related experience. Few if any employers these days are willing to train anyone. They want someone who can come in and hit the ground running right out of the starting gate.

          The advice to anyone who is even remotely looking to move up here would be this. You need to have a job offer in hand and a place to live first. Just coming up here and expecting the Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc. to help is simply not a smart thing to do.

          For example, all the people who show up in Williston and expect to get an oil job … many of them are turned back right away. Then there aren’t enough non oil-related jobs there in Williston for people to fill. Being an oil field worker requires specific expertise. The oil companies just don’t hire everyone who shows up on their doorstep.

  • sbark

    Nobody minds helping the truly helpless……not a single conservative. but any govt program lends itself to cancerous growth and end up with percentage of outright fraud, and helping the shiftless, outright lazy and those whose see a way to beat the system.
    From the top to the bottom this program is pushed for growth. the Obama regime is in mexico advertising the availability of various forms of USA govt assistance to “mobile dem’cat voters” that might cross the border…………… the local social services office—the govt employees have every reason to up enrollment for job security, wage increases, and gsa level increases. They will bend and overlook what is needed to benefit themselves……………..say hey—isn’t that “greed”……so we’ve come full circle.

  • matthew_bosch

    Food Stamps essentially tells its recipients that “You are not capable in providing food for yourself or your family, thus we must put aside $280 so that you are forced to eat.” Not a good message to send to able bodied individuals.

    Get rid of Food Stamps and put an extra $280 in the welfare check. Force them to manage the money.

    • Rob

      I don’t see how putting it in the welfare check helps.

      I say turn it into a food pantry program. Give them the food, not the money.

  • NDgirl30

    North Dakota is a difficult state to qualify for public assistance in if you do not have dependents. I won’t speak for others in this situation (democrats think this, republicans think this, etc.). Most people do have financial difficulties at some point in their life. Public assistance such as SNAP should be thought of as a hand UP and not a hand out. It is not meant to be used in the long term as a source of income to avoid bettering your current situation. I have a physical limitation and I am sure could have qualified for disability, but I opted not to as my personal choice. It was very difficult for me to make ends meet while in college because of the heavy course load combined with my physical limitations and did seek out foodstamps as they were called at that time. I was denied. I attended a food drive, but I sat and wondered if I was taking food away from someone else that was in an even worse situation than I was. A nice young lady saw me and recognized me. She later brought a few grocery bags of food to my home. I was so grateful! The food was healthy and inspired me to pay it forward, so I began a small garden. I give away many vegetables to people in my community. People can argue about the SNAP issue, it is abused like every program. People will lie, cheat and steal. However, that should not stop an individual from helping when they can and I think that is what most people want to do. Personally, I don’t think a plastic card should be given out with a balance of a few hundred dollars for people to buy food that may contribute to the obesity, healthcare crisis. I think the WIC program could lend a few ideas to SNAP. An individual should be allowed certain foods. Such as cereals, cheese, etc. Yes, variety of food is important, but so is health. It is very much a connected issue. If people eat foods made up of basically saturated fat, and become obese and unhealthy with other health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, working is likely going to become very difficult, next will come the application for disability. Of course, I don’t mean in every case. I am just using this as an example of what I feel are issues that need to be corrected. Also, I feel as though financial status should be more throughly investigated. I know several families that are being supported by their wealthy parents, so the assets are in their parents names to make the family income look very poor, when in fact they are very financially well off. Home visits should be conducted. Let the state see your fridge that is worth $3000, but stocked with 10 cases of Pepsi bought for you with someone else’s money.

    • JoeMN

      That’s all that’s really being asked, to place some accountability back into the program.

      “I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing
      good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or
      driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions
      were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of
      course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them,
      the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

      Benjamin Franklin

      • NDgirl30

        I agree, but too many people are making this into a bigger issue than what the problem is. Accountability. People are upset that the program is being abused, as it always will be, loopholes are found in everything. People are upset because they see the program as helping. However, the program could help so many more if people were willing to work together instead of blaming. I don’t think anyone is ignorant enough to believe everyone using SNAP is abusing it, nor is anyone ignorant enough to believe no one is cheating the system. Unfortunately it has become so lax, it seems hopeless to so many to try and fix. I spoke of WIC in my previous post about using some of it ideas in the SNAP program, but people abuse WIC as well. Minimizing the abuse of the program should be the goal, but instead it seems like it is not even on the goverment agenda. I am sure someone will say, “Well than you do something about it.” Trust me, I have tried. Working in healthcare is hard on the soul, and hell on the mind at times, just like any profession. It seems like if group of people made up of both liberals and conservatives could work together to bring this up as a focal point, the better chance for change.

        • JoeMN

          You say we should “work together”, and I agree.

          However this is in effect impossible as one side demands accountability with taxpayers hard earned dollars, while the other takes the bipartisan food stamp work requirement, and tosses it away like an old shoe

          This alone has caused Snap enrollment to double from 1.7 million people in 2009 to 3.9 million in 2010 and costing taxpayers an extra $4 billion per year

        • Rob

          I’m not upset with helping people.

          I’m upset about $3.7 million being spent fraudulently.

          I’m upset that the program is abused, and that the abuse is getting worse as the program expands.

          • NDgirl30

            What I meant was…people are upset the program is being attacked because they see the program as helping people and not really the amount of fraud that is present. I don’t think there is a single person that doesn’t want to help someone in need obtain food. I should have clarified that better in my previous post.