Tags: food | stamps | spending | secrets

$80 Billion in Food Stamps and No Clue How It’s Spent

Monday, 25 Jun 2012 02:30 PM

By Patrick Hobin

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Taxpayers who fund the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program are not allowed to see where or how the money is spent, the Washington Times reported.

Even food stamp costs have more than doubled in recent years, the Times said, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it can’t disclose how much each store accepts in benefits, which stores do the most business in food stamps, and what kind of food is bought. The amount of food stamps laundered into cash has increased dramatically, the Times reported. The USDA administers the food stamps program in conjunction with states. The Senate passed a version of the farm bill last week that lowers food stamp spending by $4.5 billion.

"USDA hides behind a specious proprietary data argument: The public doesn't want to know internal business decisions or information about specific individuals' finances," Steve Ellis of the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense told the Times. "The USDA sees retailers, junk food manufacturers and the big ag lobby as their customers, rather than the taxpayer."

Some states have been chided by the USDA for releasing subsets of information about food stamp purchases, the Times reported.

In Oklahoma for instance, Wal-Mart received about half of the $1 billion in food stamp purchases, the Times reported. In urban areas, food stamp money is commonly spent at corner stores on junk food and fraud is more common. Information confirming that small stores report high food stamp sales could be an indicator that it was accepting customers' food stamps and giving back cash, according to the Times.

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