COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina overpaid more than $10 million in flood-relief food stamps, according to a report by the state’s inspector general. Most of the overpayments were because of errors, but millions of it was due to fraud, the report says.
State Inspector General Patrick Maley looked at what’s officially called the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP, after the historic floods that hit the state last year. He looked at the program after “allegations from multiple sources of possible fraud,” he says in the report.
He says some of those suspicions were raised about Greenville County. The storm didn’t do much damage there, especially compared to other parts of the state, and there were only 200 applications from there for Federal Emergency Management Agency flood aid. But Greenville County had 12,772 applications for disaster food stamps.
The state Department of Social Services did an audit and found that 68 of the applications in Greenville were fraudulent for a total of $32,373. Those people have to pay back that money.
Statewide, 304,365 state households got $97.2 million in D-SNAP benefits. Of that, Maley says $10.4 million was a result of overpayments or fraud, with $7.6 million of that from errors by either the applicant or DSS and $2.8 million from fraud.
His report says DSS did follow all federal guidelines, and exceeded them in some cases, but those guidelines don’t require applicants to prove they qualify.
He recommends that, after future disasters, that DSS change the application process or the verification process, if the post-disaster environment permits. He also recommends that DSS precisely define the geographic boundaries of a disaster to better justify where benefits will go.
The report also says 259 DSS employees had filed for D-SNAP benefits. DSS audited those claims and found 16 cases of fraud.
DSS said in a written statement, “DSS’ goal in operating a DSNAP program was to (quickly) provide aid to citizens impacted by the October 2015 floods, while complying with Federal guidelines. The Department concurs with the Office of the State Inspector General’s findings and recommendations in the report, and will continue to identify and implement procedural improvements in the event of future disasters.
“Agency employees are not precluded from applying for or receiving DSNAP, or any other federal public assistance program. DSS is one of the largest agencies in South Carolina, with offices in all 46 counties. Of the 179,588 DSNAP applications approved, 259 or 0.14% were from individuals employed by the Department.”
You can read the entire inspector general’s report here.