BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s social services agency is improving efforts to keep food stamp rolls current and shrink improper payments, but still has paid out benefits after recipients have died, according to an audit released Monday.
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office found that the Department of Children and Family Services paid $42,599 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, called SNAP, to 108 people who had died from July 2013 through June 2017.
That was down significantly from a prior report released four years ago.
In that 2014 review, auditors found the children and family services department had paid $1.3 million in SNAP benefits for 3,938 people who had died. Those benefits were paid out from July 2009 through June 2013.
After that report, Purpera’s office said the department changed its review process. The agency created an automated review of death records from the state health department each night, followed by a monthly audit.
The Department of Children and Family Services “has worked diligently to improve operational and monitoring processes and is pleased that you have reported the significant improvements,” Secretary Marketa Garner Walters wrote in a response to the audit.
SNAP benefits are loaded onto debit-style cards at the start of a month. The improper payments identified in the audit, according to the children and family services department, likely happened when benefits already loaded to a card were spent by someone else after the eligible recipient had died.
The department said it would be difficult to recover the misspent dollars because the agency doesn’t know who used the benefits and stores don’t maintain their surveillance video for very long, according to the review.