Colorado food stamp program had problems accurately paying in the past

DENVER -- As President Donald Trump called for a $191 billion cut to food stamps in his latest budget proposal, which equates to a $2.1 billion cut for Colorado over 10 years, Denver7 Investigates found Colorado's food stamp program has dolled out incorrect amounts of money to families at a rate higher than the national average.

The Colorado State Auditor found problems in 2013 and alerted the State Department of Human Services.

The audit found a 5.6 percent error rate in 2013 compared with a 3.2 percent national average error rate, according to Legislative Audit Committee Chairwoman Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, a Democrat who represents Westminster and Arvada.

"That's concerning because we do want to see our taxpayer money used as effectively and efficiently as possible," Kraft-Tharp told Denver7's Jace Larson.

The issues have been fixed, according to Colorado Department of Human Services spokeswoman Elizabeth Owens, but not before another state audit two years later chided the department.

A 2015 state audit found the Department of Human Services still had not improved its error rate to beat the national average.

The state's error rate improved to 4.26 percent in 2014 and 3.9 percent by 2015. The national average error rate in 2015 was 3.48 percent, Kraft-Tharp said.

"Should it take this long? No. It shouldn't take this long. However, let's be clear we have seen increase in success but we are nowhere near the place we want to be," Kraft-Tharp said.

The state's error rate in October and November of 2016 was 3.56 percent, below the national average of 5.43 percent, Owens said Tuesday. That number won't be verified by the audit committee until the state auditor's office conducts a third audit at the end of June. The results will not likely be available until 2018.

FOOD STAMP QUALIFICATION

To qualify for the food stamp program, officially named SNAP, families in the lower 48 states must meet income guidelines that vary based on the number of people living in the home.

 

Household Size

Gross monthly income 

(130 percent of poverty)

Net monthly income 

(100 percent of poverty)

1

$1,287

$ 990

2

1,736

1,335

3

2,184

1,680

4

2,633

2,025

5

3,081

2,370

6

3,530

2,715

7

3,980

3,061

8

4,430

3,408

Each additional member

+451

+347 

Colorado had 457,848 people on food stamps last month. That represents 221,700 homes, Owens told Denver7 Investigates.

"Enrollment has been declining in Colorado, in part, due to the economic recovery," she said.

The most common person using food stamp benefits is a single mother between 18 and 24 years old with one or two children. Most commonly, families receive benefits for less than one year, according to Owens.

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