|The Minnesota Millionaire by Rep. Dusty Johnson.
June 20, 2019
Our national debt is higher than ever at $22 trillion. I am a conservative for a few reasons, which include keeping the government small and taxes low. If those reasons are to ring true, then we must limit our spending and ensure our tax dollars are being spent wisely. Neglecting our values gave us the deficit we have today.
This week, I got a clear picture of how government waste contributes to our debt during an Agriculture subcommittee hearing on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. I met with Rob Undersander, a millionaire from Minnesota, who successfully applied for and received SNAP benefits from his state. Mr. Undersander is retired, so technically he has no monthly stream of wages. However, he has millions in assets and because of a flaw in our system, he was able to qualify for food stamps.
Mr. Undersander didn’t lie on his forms, and in fact, he donated the funds he received from food stamps to charity. He wasn’t trying to scam the system – he was exposing a flaw in a well-intentioned system. It is not his fault the SNAP eligibility system failed to flag his application. Even though Mr. Undersander’s intentions were good, there are undoubtedly many who abuse the system for their own benefit. Congress has some work to do.
Provisions intended to streamline delivery of the welfare program have opened a loophole abused by too many states. In states like Vermont, you can be eligible for SNAP benefits by simply receiving a pamphlet for a different welfare program in the mail. This isn’t responsible and it’s not good government.
I’m not heartless and it’s no secret that while growing up, my family relied on food assistance at times. I want a safety net that truly helps people, and it’s not burdensome for someone to fill out a form and provide legitimate information to receive SNAP funds. Receiving a check shouldn’t be easier than applying for a job.
Closing this loophole could reduce administrative costs by $660 million per year. Some might say $660 million is a drop in the bucket, but we must start somewhere – and starting with waste, fraud and abuse seems like a pretty good first step.
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