$88M overpaid in food stamp benefits

Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS -- Ohio's overpayment of food-stamp benefits last year exceeded the national average, according to state numbers.

The state overpaid more than $88 million in tax-funded benefits last year. In all, Ohio misspent 4.1 percent of the nearly $3 billion received from the federal government for food-stamp benefits in 2013, The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday.

The state's error rate was up slightly from the previous year, and it's above the average national rate of 3.2 percent for tax-dollar waste. That ranks Ohio 21st in the country.

Virginia had the lowest rate of errors, 0.44 percent, while Vermont's 9.7 percent was the highest.

In most cases, the state paid more than a recipient was entitled to, and in some instances, too little. There were nearly $32 million in underpayments.

Ohio officials say the state's error rate has dropped significantly in the past six years. They say errors include incorrect calculations made by county caseworkers, honest mistakes by applicants and some instances of fraud. Fraud usually involves an applicant providing false information about income or household size, both of which are used to determine the amount of benefit paid.

A spokesman said the error rate is expected to improve when a new computer system replaces a decades-old system. It will allow county caseworkers to more easily access and verify wage records, income and other documents necessary for determining eligibility and calculating benefit amounts.

More than 1.8 million Ohioans receive food stamps, with an average monthly benefit of $132.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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