For the first time since the COVID pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the fiscal year 2022 national payment error rate for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The PER measures how accurately SNAP agencies determine benefit amounts and eligibility. A payment error means the agency either underpaid or overpaid the recipient, which can result from an error by the agency or a recipient or fraud. 

At 11.54%, the national average PER reflects a 4.18 percentage point increase over fiscal year 2019, the last time USDA calculated the rate for the food program serving more than 41 million people, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priories.

The increase follows many states activating SNAP emergency allotments in fiscal year 2022 allowing all households to receive the maximum benefit amount for their household size.

These payment error rates are not synonymous with fraud but are a major performance metric as part of SNAP’s Quality Control System.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean said SNAP “played a critical role throughout the pandemic, helping millions of Americans access food and preventing hunger from skyrocketing across the country.”

Dean said SNAP helped those out of work in the Spring of 2020 – Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency alone fielded more than 2.2 million benefits requests – but placed an “incredible strain” on program administration.

“The first state-by-state set of payment error rates coming out of the pandemic reflects the challenging circumstances under which the state agencies were operating, and from which many are continuing to recover,” Dean said in a statement.

The overwhelming majority of errors are unintentional and many of the mistakes have stemmed from the significant increase in first-time SNAP recipients and general confusion relating to SNAP rules and application changes during the pandemic, Dean said. 

“USDA is committed to supporting states in improving payment accuracy in SNAP to ensure the program effectively and efficiently serves those who need it and promotes good stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” Dean continued. “We are doubling down to work with state partners to find ways to decrease payment errors and tackle the issues aggressively at their root cause. Together, we will continue to move toward a stronger, efficient, more modern future for SNAP and those it serves.”

In the Spring of 2020, Congress allowed states to skip quality control reviews, which resulted in USDA being unable to publish the annual national and state payment error rates for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. In fiscal year 2022, states resumed reporting error rates to USDA, allowing for the reinstatement of the annual publication.

Fiscal year 2022 data indicate that together, states had an average overpayment error rate of 9.84% and an underpayment error rate of 1.7%.

Alaska reported a 56% PER rate, while Maryland reported a 35% PER.

The PER reported reflect the payment accuracy of the regular SNAP benefit, but in fiscal year 2022, 45 states were providing emergency allotments.

This article was originally published on and is republished with permission.

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