A recent study by a notable public policy think tank has revealed that an estimated 66,000 significant lottery prize winners in the United States continue to receive food stamps, irrespective of the fact that their winnings should have rendered them ineligible for such government support.
The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a conservative nonprofit based in Naples, Florida, has asserted that this situation underscores the need for improved oversight and stricter regulation of state-managed food stamp programs to weed out potential misuse.
Lottery winners are able to remain recipients of benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the federally administered food stamp program that provides support to states in helping individuals with low-to-no income.
Hayden Dublois, Director of Data and Analytics at the FGA, claims that numerous states have not taken sufficient measures to remove lottery winners from the system, even after these individuals’ newfound wealth has made them ineligible for continued SNAP assistance.
The FGA, prompted by Freedom of Information Act filings, managed to procure the data from only 13 states, leaving the organization to argue that the actual scale of the issue may be exponentially greater. The current figure of 66,000 individuals persisting on SNAP, despite winning substantial lottery prizes, is potentially just the tip of the iceberg.
Dublois, through an op-ed recently circulated in the media, argued that these lottery winners are able to continue reaping SNAP benefits as a result of a mix of state negligence and the presence of federally created loopholes.
SNAP’s guidelines dictate that monetary assistance should be restricted to individuals who are at or below 130% of the poverty line. The income cap for a three-member family is roughly $32,328 per year or approximately $2,694 per month. Dublois laments that at least 66,000 recipients have lottery prize money exceeding those thresholds, yet continue to benefit from food stamps.
The FGA’s primary message is clear—states should sharpen their focus on cross-checking records of lottery winners with SNAP participant rosters. An amendment to the existing stipulations of the food benefit program is also recommended by the think tank. The group particularly targets the broadly inclusive categorical eligibility that permits states to enroll an individual in SNAP without conducting an in-depth eligibility check, contingent upon the person receiving another taxpayer-funded benefit.
Activities like data cross-checks between SNAP recipient records, lottery win records, death records, employment and salary information should be mandated by the federal government, according to Dublois and his colleagues. The termination of broad-based categorical eligibility and the implementation of a federal asset test for every SNAP beneficiary is also advocated by the group.
With data from only 13 states to draw from, the FGA maintains that the actual breadth of the issue is likely from being fully realized. Dublois has emphasized the staggering scale of the problem, stating that it “shocks the conscious and defies belief.” With only five states currently without a lottery, the potential number of unwarranted SNAP beneficiaries could be significantly higher.