As House and Senate negotiators meet Wednesday for the first joint talks on a bill that includes sharp cuts to food-stamp funding, an open question is whether lawmakers will get serious about targeting fraud in the massive program.
A recent inspector general audit suggests a full-blown crackdown on fraud could save $222 million a year.
The amount appears relatively small considering the government pays out roughly $70 billion in annual food stamps benefits. But negotiators will likely consider every penny of potential savings as they try to bridge the gap between the GOP-led House’s proposed $40 billion cut and the Democrat-led Senate’s $4.5 billion cut.
Food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are part of the larger farm bill but are being dealt with through the House’s separate Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity bill.
House Speaker John Boehner recently said the bill “strengthens one of our nation’s welfare programs for the neediest Americans … roots out waste, fraud and abuse, encourages able-bodied adults to find work and saves taxpayers more than $39 billion.”
Among the anti-fraud measures in the bill, also known as H.R. 3102, is one that requires states to get tough on households that repeatedly ask for replacement EBT cards, which have largely replaced food stamps or vouchers as the method by which Americans purchase food at stores.
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