Use of Scrip Versus Cash in Making Change for Food Stamp Purchases

CED-82-89: Published: May 21, 1982. Publicly Released: May 25, 1982.

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GAO reviewed information on the use of scrip or credit slips instead of cash as change in food stamp purchases.

GAO found that the Food Stamp Act of 1977, as amended, provides that eligible households using food stamps to purchase food may receive cash as change, provided it does not equal or exceed the value of the lowest coupon denomination issued. Surveys were conducted to obtain information on whether food stamp participants were abusing the cash change rule through small purchases. The principle conclusions of the survey were: (1) cash change given out for small purchases represented less than 1 percent of the total dollar value of food stamp redemptions by the surveyed stores; (2) small purchases of 25 cents or less represented about 12 percent of the total number of food stamp purchases at the surveyed stores; and (3) about 56 percent of the store personnel surveyed said that they did not have any experience with food stamp customers making small purchases of 25 cents or less, and about 20 per cent said that cash change abuse was a significant problem. This survey showed that widespread abuse of the cash change rule did not exist. Four options were identified for making change for food stamp purchases: (1) continue to give cash change; (2) return to the use of scrip; (3) use a combination of cash and scrip; and (4) require participants to pay any cost over an even dollar amount or purchase additional food.

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