- Associated Press - Sunday, March 30, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - State officials are faced with addressing a growing rate of errors in Georgia’s food stamp distribution system.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (http://bit.ly/1mjF2WM) reported Sunday that Georgia spent about $138 million in overpayments to benefit recipients in 2013 and risks an outside intervention since the program is federally funded.

Several factors may be contributing to the overpayments including incorrect or fraudulent applications, mistakes made by DFACS staff and more.

“Hardworking taxpayers are incensed when they are on line, buying an inexpensive cut of meat due to their budget, and they see someone with a (food stamps) card eating better than they are,” said Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, who wrote a law this year to drug test food stamp recipients.


A collection program by the Treasury Department has helped the state recover about $58 million in overpayments since 1992.

Georgia’s distribution error rate was 3.18 percent in 2012 and 4.99 percent in 2013. A month’s worth of data in 2014 showed an error rate of 5.5 percent. If the rate surpasses 6 percent, federal officials could impose a quality control process and fines.

“This is a very dramatic wrong turn,” said David Super, a Georgetown University professor who has studied Georgia’s food stamp system for a decade. “It’s unusual to see a state deteriorate this far this fast.”

Georgia Division of Family and Children Services spokeswoman Ashely Fielding said the agency doesn’t have enough staff to deal with the number of applications for assistance, which have risen since the economic downturn. A rush to clear a backlog of cases could result in even more errors, Super said.

The newspaper reports records indicate that overpayments have resulted in underpayments to some recipients - which concerns advocates for the low-income.

“We’re talking about people in desperate situations trying to put food on the table,” said Nancy Rhinehart, an attorney for Atlanta Legal AID.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com