The Palmetto State is getting a few snaps for its nutrition assistance accuracy.
South Carolina will receive a $1.8 million “high performance bonus” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for having one of the lowest payment error rates in delivering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
“The governor has always said that government is in the customer service business, that she wants and expects her agencies to be watchdogs of taxpayer money and more efficient in how we provide services to the people of South Carolina,” Doug Mayer, deputy communications director for Gov. Nikki Haley, wrote in an email.
South Carolina’s error rate, 1.59 percent, was in the middle of nine states’ rates that received bonuses. Florida had the best error rate at 0.77 percent, with Louisiana three notches below at 1.45 percent and Alabama as the eighth-place finisher at 1.85 percent.
Both Alabama and Louisiana were also the most improved in their accuracy from 2011.
South Carolina DSS Director Lillian Koller “was very pleased when she heard the news,” said the social services’ department’s public information director Kathleen Goetzman.
The USDA delivers $30 million each year in bonuses to states in the categories of best payment accuracy, best improved payment accuracy, and a new award for best case and procedural error rate.
The amount of the bonus is determined by the number of caseloads in the state.
Last year, South Carolina scored a $2.2 million bonus for most improved payment accuracy, improving from 5.14 percent to 3.14 percent.
“I encourage you to use this funding to continue efforts to improve administration of this critical assistance program, particularly in the area of program integrity,” wrote Secretary of Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin W. Concannon in a letter to Haley. “It is our joint responsibility to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and provide a return on the valuable investment.”
The overpayment rate of SNAP recipients was 1.43 percent, while 0.16 percent of recipients were underpaid.
The 2011 bonus was spent on temporary workers, Goetzman said, including the processing of these SNAP inquiries in their high volume. For this year, Goetzman said the department is still looking over different options on how the new bonus will be spent.
According to April USDA data, more than 3,000 people in South Carolina moved off of the nutrition assistance program in one month’s time. Still, there was a 0.6 percent increase — or 5,375 — of South Carolina citizens on food stamps in the Palmetto State since April 2012.
From fiscal year 2011 to 2012, nearly 2 million more people nationwide participated in the program, the costs went up on the national level by almost $2.8 billion.
Reach Nick Watson at 937-4810.