Monday, April 08, 2013

OOPS: USDA Corrects Dramatic Miscalculation For Number Of Food Stamp Beneficiaries

Agency credits "state system glitch" for false report of a major drop in beneficiaries, and changes number from more than half a million people to just under 20,000 people...
It seemed like good news:  The Department of Agriculture reported on Friday, April 5th that 514,458 people went off the Food Stamp rolls between December of 2012 and January of 2013, the most recent month for which data is available.  But on Monday afternoon the agency posted a corrected number that showed there was a reduction of just 19,948 beneficiaries between the two months.  

A note on USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) data website on Monday credited "the potential inaccuracy" in the misreported number to a "state system glitch."

As of today, USDA is reporting that 47,772,108 people received benefits for January in what is officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), at a cost of $6,326,943,69 for the month, the same figure reported before the "glitch" in the number of beneficiaries was caught.   The agency last Friday reported that number at 47,277,538 Americans.  Since it's a reversal of the numbers highlighted in red, perhaps the problem was due to simple human error, rather than to a "state system glitch." 

A note appeared on the SNAP Data site most of the day on Monday that read:

"FNS believes there may be a state system glitch causing a potential inaccuracy in the January 13 SNAP Participation Data.  FNS is currently working to resolve the issue." 

After the new, corrected number was posted, the message disappeared from the FNS site; the notation at the top of the data graph now reads "Data as of April 5, 2013"--Friday's date, with no note that the agency had previously posted the wrong beneficiary number. 

Above, a screengrab of the note about the "glitch" on USDA's SNAP data site; click to enlarge.

 The average monthly benefit per person in January was $132.44 and $274.04 per household; the first number is different than that reported last Friday.

In December of 2012, 47,792,056 citizens received benefits, for a total expenditure of $6,390,849,264, according to USDA's revised figures for the month.  That number of beneficiaries included those receiving SNAP disaster benefits following the two major hurricanes that hit the US.