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Highlights

In fiscal year 2003, the federal Food Stamp Program made payment errors totaling about $1.4 billion in benefits, or about 7 percent of the total $21.4 billion in benefits provided to a monthly average of 21 million low-income participants. Because payment errors are a misuse of public funds and can undermine public support of the program, it is important that the government minimize them. Because of concerns about ensuring payment accuracy GAO examined: (1) what is included in the national food stamp payment error rate and how it has changed over time, (2) what is known about the causes of food stamp payment errors, and (3) what actions the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and states have taken to reduce these payment errors. To answer these questions, GAO analyzed program quality control data for fiscal years 1999 through 2003 and interviewed program stakeholders, including state and local officials from nine states.

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