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Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

It’s that time of year! When the Foundation for Government Accountability starts sharing the results of its yearlong audits. And it’s not looking so good for SNAP benefits. A questionnaire was sent out by the FGA to all 50 state run SNAP agencies and asked for the number of people in the food stamp program since 2019 who won big in the lottery during that period. Big meaning at least $4,250 or more. The answer, drumroll please. It should be zero, right? Wrong.

Over 66,000 substantial lottery winners continued to receive food stamps in the 13 states for which the request yielded survey data. Most likely, across all 50 states, the number of lottery winners collecting SNAP benefits is likely in the hundreds of thousands. The highest lottery winner still on a food stamp program in the nation? First place goes to and individual in South Dakota, with the winner of a $2 million jackpot still being subsidized by taxpayers. Among the thirteen states that responded to the questionnaire, only 400 lottery winners have been removed from the SNAP programs. Illinois is the worst offender, removing a mere 99 substantial winners out of the more than 50,000 people on food stamps. Why so few? 

The first reason is ineptitude.  Only eight states have legally mandated robust data cross-checks that compare lottery winning records to food-stamp records on a weekly or routine basis. The second reason is a U.S. Federal loophole. Congress has allowed states to ignore the food stamp asset limit test under a policy known as “broad-based categorical eligibility.” Basically, states can automatically sign up someone for food stamps if they receive another taxpayer-funded benefit. The assumption is that if you’re getting the taxpayers’ help in one area, you probably qualify for help in other areas. Still seems like ineptitude.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on article “Food stamps aren’t for lottery jackpot winners” published by Fox News on October 20, 2023

Tens of thousands of substantial lottery winners are receiving food stamps, through a combination of state negligence and federally created loopholes. Congress should get lottery winners off this low-income program when passing the Farm Bill later this fall.

The Foundation for Government Accountability submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to all 50 states, requesting information on the number of substantial lottery winners on the food stamp program since 2019. We aren’t talking about the proud owners of $20 prizes from scratchers. We’re talking about those who won at least $4,250, which under federal law, makes a person ineligible for the taxpayer’s help.

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