Government isn’t exactly known for its efficiency, and California is no exception to high costs and bloated bureaucracies. Why should it be any different for food stamps?
The number of beneficiaries in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, administered by the states and known as CalFresh in California, shot up during the Great Recession, and continued to increase dramatically for several years afterward during the anemic economic recovery.
In 2007, there was an average of 26.3 million people in SNAP. By 2009, the figure had jumped to 33.5 million — a 27 percent increase. But the numbers continued to skyrocket to a peak of 47.6 million in 2013 — a total increase of 81 percent in just six years. The numbers have been coming down in recent years, though there were still approximately 41.6 million people receiving benefits as of April.
The program’s State Activity Reports provide some additional insights based on state-level data. In fiscal year 2015, the most recent data available, California’s 4.4 million participants represented 9.7 percent of the national total — and 11 percent of total payouts. Those benefits averaged $142 per month per person, or about $300 per household — the third-highest state benefit in the nation.
California’s costs of administering the program are also inordinately high. State administrative costs were $68.92 per case per month, trailing only Wyoming ($81.37) among the states. That is 143 percent higher than the national average — and 185 percent higher than the average of the other 49 states. Florida had the lowest administrative costs, at just $6.96 per case per month.
It is not as though those additional costs are working to reduce fraud or improve the accuracy of decisions to deny benefits. Those who are denied benefits or have their payments reduced, suspended or canceled may appeal through a “fair hearing” process conducted by the state. California’s track record with regard to these fair hearings…