Virginia pays price for past pressure to reduce errors in food stamp program
For three years, Virginia took the carrot the federal government offered to states that commit comparatively few errors in awarding food stamps to people who need them.
Now, the state is taking the stick under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice that requires repayment of more than $6 million in performance bonuses — plus $1 million in interest — that Virginia received for reducing its error rates in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Virginia’s top social services official said the state was motivated more by fear than greed in hiring a consultant who had helped dozens of other states reduce error rates that could bring sanctions to those that repeatedly exceed the federal threshold, and bonuses to those that keep them low.
“We were not looking to get a bonus,” said Margaret Ross Schultze, the commissioner of social services who assumed the job on an interim basis in 2013, the last year a SNAP bonus was awarded to Virginia. “We were looking to get our error rate down.”