Donald Trump doesn’t want to give poor people health insurance or food. The White House 2018 budget would cut $193 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—food stamps—over ten years, largely by shifting costs to the states. (Burden on South Dakota’s budget: $252 million over ten years.)
[Great Plains Food Bank Pres. Steve] Sellent said the effects of cutting SNAP would be devastating to families in North Dakota, which receives about $10 million from the program.
“Congress knows a farm bill alliance that helps both farmer and consumers is a workable path forward,” [farmer Bill] Hejl said. “An executive budget that cuts $193 billion from a program for hungry people shakes the foundation of that alliance, and it’s not right.”
[Rancher Ryan] Taylor said the current farm bill, passed in 2014 will expire in September 2018. However, work on the comprehensive agriculture and food law is beginning now in committees where talk of decoupling or removing SNAP from the federal bill has started to swirl.
SNAP has been a part of the farm bill since 1964, a component that not only helps feed those in need but brings together rural and urban political interests when compromising on the massive agricultural bill, Taylor said.
“It connects those who grow the food with those that eat the food,” [Farmers Union organizer Brandon] Delvo said. “Legislation that supports family farm and ranch agriculture creates a stronger rural America.”
Making sure everybody eats is good for everybody. The Trump party’s budget cutting reflects both a failure to recognize our nation’s common interests and a lack of faith in the wealth and strength of this country.
As part of the settlement, VDSS admitted that, beginning in 2010, it retained Julie Osnes Consulting, a quality control consultant, to reduce its SNAP benefits determination error rate by training VDSS quality control workers to “use whatever means necessary” to find a benefits decision “correct” rather than finding an error. VDSS also admitted that if its quality control staff “could not find a way to make a benefits decision correct,” they were instructed to “find a reason to ‘drop’ the case, or eliminate it from the sample.” VDSS acknowledged that this outcome-driven method, as implemented by VDSS between 2010 and 2015, “injected bias into the case review process” because it was designed to lower VDSS’s reported error rate by falsely reporting errors as “correct” or eliminating them from the sample. Through its use of these biased methods, VDSS was improperly awarded USDA performance bonuses for 2011, 2012, and 2013.
VDSS further admitted that VDSS quality control workers did not want to use the methods proposed by Julie Osnes Consulting because they believed the methods lacked integrity, injected bias into the quality control process, and violated USDA requirements, and that they communicated these concerns to their supervisors. VDSS admitted that the former VDSS quality control manager pressured and intimidated these employees to force them to adopt these methods, including, according to these employees, threatening termination, providing negative performance reviews, taking away teleworking and flexible scheduling privileges, and engaging in other forms of harassment and retaliation.
As part of the settlement, WDHS admitted that, beginning in 2008, it utilized the services of Julie Osnes Consulting, a quality control consultant, to review the error cases identified by WDHS quality control workers. WDHS further admitted that based on instructions from Julie Osnes Consulting it implemented several improper and biased quality control practices, including: (1) finding a basis for dropping error cases from the review by discouraging beneficiaries from cooperating with information requests and pursuing unnecessary information; (2) selectively applying requirements and policies to overturn and reduce errors; (3) asking beneficiaries leading questions to obtain desired answers to eliminate error potential; (4) arbitrating any and all differences with USDA; (5) subjecting error cases to additional scrutiny and quality control casework with the goal of overturning an error or dropping a case; and (6) omitting verifying information in documents made available to USDA. These practices improperly decreased WDHS’s reported error rate, and as a result, WDHS earned performance bonuses for 2009, 2010, and 2011 to which it was not entitled [“Wisconsin Department of Health Services Agrees to Pay Nearly $7 Million to Resolve Alleged False Claims for SNAP Funds,” U.S. Department of Justice, 2017.04.13].
Julie Osnes is the CEO of RightManual. The company was founded after identifying a need to create effective manuals that policy workers were able to use to assist in carrying out their duties in a cost effective manner. Julie previously founded Julie Osnes Consulting, LLC in October 2007 after selling her interests in The Rushmore Group, LLC. Osnes retained SNAP QC consulting services at the time of separation. Ms. Osnes was a Member in Rushmore for 7 years (May 2000-October 2007) following over twenty years of state experience administering the SNAP Program for the South Dakota Department of Social Services. During this time, the South Dakota Food Stamp Program consistently maintained a high accuracy rate (exceeding 95 percent) that led to 16 consecutive years of enhanced funding from the federal government. Her considerable benefit delivery knowledge and management skills led Governor William Janklow to appoint her to lead his welfare reform initiative in 1996. This experience required her to form discussion committees, schedule focus groups, and ultimately develop and deliver the State’s TANF program to the legislature – a project of major scope and importance. In recognition of her national leadership role for the Food Stamp Program, Ms. Osnes was the recipient of the 2000 Leadership Award presented by the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA). Ms. Osnes was president of the American Association of Food Stamp Directors for five years and served on APHSA’s Board of Directors for four years. Her efforts providing QC consulting services with documented results is reason enough to apply her methods and experiences to QC issues facing other states. Julie Osnes is now sole proprietor of Julie Osnes Consulting, LLC, a company established to provide SNAP QC consulting services [jturincs, “Julie,” RightManual.com, 2016.12.11].
Julie Osnes Consulting was paid $429,000 for its work in 2009, records show. That was 15% of the total performance bonus for low error rates awarded that year to the agency, according to [WDHS spokeswoman Julie] Lund.
Osnes contracted with the state of Virginia from 2010 to 2012. There’s no published word on whether Wisconsin and Virginia will try to make Osnes pay back her cut of the improper bonuses those states earned.
Osnes’s website used to list the following states where her services had secured high performance bonuses for food stamp programs:
FY 2013 Food Stamp High Performance Bonus
96% of the total 2013 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes::
Georgia – Most improved Negative Error Rate – $3,975,869
Wisconsin – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $2,106,427
Florida – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $9,087,687
Virginia – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $2,303,828
South Carolina – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $2,217,828
Maine – Lowest Negative Error Rate – $719,248
FY 2010 Food Stamp High Performance Bonus
77% of the total 2010 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes:
District of Columbia – Most improved Negative Error Rate – $347,086
Michigan – Most improved Negative Error Rate – $3, 338,653
Nebraska – Top Negative Error Rate – $363,960
Delaware – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $320,503
Alaska – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $232,898
Indiana – Top 7 (& most improved) Positive Error Rate – $1,618,569
Georgia – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $3,076,511
Wisconsin – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $1,484,019
Florida – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $6,083,577
FY 2009 Food Stamp High Performance Bonus
71% of the total 2009 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes:
Maine – Top 7 Positive and Top 4 Negative Error Rates – $1,328,261
Delaware – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $407,494
Georgia – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $4,187,866
Wisconsin – Top 7 Positive and Most Improved Negative Error Rates – $2,861,791
Nebraska – Top 7 Positive and Top Negative Error Rates – $850,986
Florida – Top Positive and Most Improved Negative Error Rates – $11,552,247
FY 2008 SNAP Program High Performance Bonuses
48% of the total 2008 bonus pool of thirty million dollars went to the following states that currently partner or have partnered with Julie Osnes:
Delaware – Most Improved Positive – $408,606
Florida – Highest Accuracy Positive – $7,179,612
Georgia – Highest Accuracy Positive – $4,062,236
Colorado – Most Improved Negative – $1,454,277
Nebraska – Highest Accuracy in both Positive and Negatives – $1,339,060
FY 2007 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses
Nebraska – Top 7 for Positive and Top 4 for Negative error rates – $1,023,369
Pennsylvania – Top 7 Positive – $4,644,234
Missouri – Top 7 Positive – $2,662,498
Florida – Most Improved Positive – $5,481,910
Alabama – Top 4 negative – $1,715,161
FY 2006 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses
Missouri – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $3,234,784
Nebraska – Top 4 Negative Error Rate- $466,639
Pennsylvania – Top 4 Negative Error Rate – $3,651,458
FY 2005 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses
Alabama – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $4,336,006
Nebraska – Top 4 Negative Error Rate – $1,063,944
FY 2004 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses
Utah – Top 7 Positive Error Rate – $561,367
Pennsylvania – Top 7 Error Rate – $5,010,200
Colorado – Most Improved Positive Error Rate – $1,202,150
FY 2003 Food Stamp Program High Performance Bonuses
California – Most Improved Positive Error Rate – $6,819,955
QC services were partnered with counties and not the state. Counties included Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Fresno, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Tulare & Orange [from JulieOsnesConsulting.com, archived 2015.02.20].
Osnes’s lawyer, Jamie Damon of Pierre, tells KELO-TV (and anyone else who will listen that the DOJ is “slandering” his sterling-souled client to cover up the feds’ own failings:
JOC is a well-respected company and with a great reputation. FNS and DOJ have set out to destroy this reputation by civil proceedings which I, as JOC counsel believes were meant to shield USDA & FNS from further embarrassment as the result of the 10/15 OIG Report.
JOC offers advice. States are free to use JOC’s advice in any manner they see fit and JOC does not sign off on completed cases. The only thing JOC can be certain of is that instructions were not given that would have resulted in a State going outside of USDA established standards & procedures.
As an aside I have known Julie Osnes for many, many years. She is a person of the highest integrity. Her business dealings reflect that. She does not advocate “taking any means necessary” but rather consistently advises states to follow federal regulations and not step beyond them. JOC cannot speak for state management practices since her work never dealt with a state’s employee performance. JOC dealt with interpretation of federal regulations and how to apply them to cases under review [Jamie Damon, statement to KELO-TV, 2017.04.17].
If the DOJ settlements against Wisconsin and Virginia do redound to the detriment of Osnes’s consulting business, she and her husband Douglas can fall back on farming. They just filed new farm incorporation papers this winter for their 160 acres north of Pierre. If the DOJ’s characterization of her consulting is true, Julie Osnes may find growing food a healthy change from helping government agencies treat federal food assistance as a cash crop.
Related Reading: Todd Epp views Osnes’s alleged participation in this state government food stamp scam as part of a pattern of South Dakota officials using their government experience to improperly cash in (think EB-5 and GEAR UP). “South Dakotans are no better than anyone else,” writes an angry Epp. “We are also subject to the Seven Deadly sins, with greed being chief among them, particularly if you are an alumni of the state’s Republican one party rule.”
…Perhaps you have also noticed the several hundred Million dollars in annual tax increases during the tenure of these two Governors. Be sure to thank them (or yourself) for that too… if you think it’s a good thing [Gordon Howie, “Food Stamp Recipients in South Dakota,” The Right Side, 2017.04.06].
Alas, Howie envisions no way to change the problems for which he seems to blame his party:
You will soon have the opportunity to elect someone new to this office. My guess is that it will be another Republican. I would also guess not much will change [Howie, 2017.04.06].
Alas, the fatalism of fundagelicals! Turn that frown upside down, Gordon, and do something more about your woes than praying to be raptured away from them:
If Republicans are causing your problems, stop voting Republicans.
If people can’t afford food, vote for Democrats who support better wages and a repeal of the food tax.
If tax increases are getting your goat, vote for Democrats who support steady, ongoing investments in schools and roads instead waiting until there’s a crisis that requires massive tax increases to address.
See, Gordon? Problems aren’t hard to solve, if you put down your culture-war prejudices and look for real solutions.
Representative Elizabeth May may not be testing SNAP recipients for drugs, but she and her fellow conservatives continue to aim more suspicion than compassion at the poor. May’s House Bill 1178 would require the Department of Social Services to come up with a plan by the end of this year to implement photo Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
What emerges from this review is the absence of a compelling logic model to suggest that photo EBT cards might meaningfully reduce card trafficking, given that such trafficking involves the complicity of individuals and retailers for whom a photo on the card will not act as a deterrent. The cost estimates of operating a photo EBT policy, weighed against the limited expectation of altering the behavior of would-be traffickers, suggest strongly that photo EBT cards are not a cost-effective approach to combat trafficking. This assessment is strengthened by evidence from Massachusetts that retailer clerks generally do not check the photos on the cards. Moreover, it is evident that many participants who are subject to the state’s photo EBT card requirement have encountered difficulty with the state agency’s procedures for obtaining a photo card and with the grocery checkout practices of some food retailers that have prevented participants from accessing their program benefits [Greory B. Mills and Christopher Lowenstein, “Assessing the Merits of Photo EBT Cards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” Urban Institute, March 2015].
Massachusetts estimates it will spend $5 million-$7 million to fully implement its photo requirement for EBT cards and $4.4 million annually on an ongoing basis. Yet the state has already found the photo requirement to be a wasteful use of public resources meant to help low-income people escape poverty.
I must still be a conservative: most of the time, I end up measuring the success of the South Dakota Legislature by what they don’t do rather than what they do do… since far too much of what they do do is doo-doo.
However, Rep. May is co-sponsoring a suspicious-looking bill dealing with the SNAP eligibility. House Bill 1191 adds one sentence to our state food stamp statutes:
The Department of Social Services shall require each person to cooperate with the Division of Child Support as a condition of eligibility, pursuant to 7 C.F.R. § 273.11(o).
The subsection of federal statute cited allows state agencies to disqualify custodial parents from SNAP if they don’t cooperate with state child support enforcement programs. “Cooperation” means helping the Division of Child Support “in establishing paternity of the child, and in establishing, modifying, or enforcing a support order.”
South Dakota households and individuals on food stamps have trended down each year since 2013. The most recent data from October show about 95,000 South Dakotans on SNAP. That’s one in nine of our neighbors getting our help in putting food on the table.
Constitutional challenges to suspicionless governmental drug testing most often focus on issues of personal privacy and Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable searches.” For searches to be reasonable, they generally must be based on individualized suspicion unless the government can show a “special need” warranting a deviation from the norm. However, governmental benefit programs like TANF, SNAP, unemployment compensation, and housing assistance do not naturally evoke special needs grounded in public safety or the care of minors in the public school setting that the Supreme Court has recognized in the past. Thus, if lawmakers wish to pursue the objective of reducing the likelihood of taxpayer funds going to individuals who abuse drugs through drug testing, legislation that only requires individuals to submit to a drug test based on an individualized suspicion of drug use is less likely to run afoul of the Fourth Amendment. Additionally, governmental drug testing procedures that restrict the sharing of test results and limit the negative consequences of failed tests to the assistance program in question would be on firmer constitutional ground [David H. Carpenter, “Constitutional Analysis of Suspicionless Drug Testing Requirements for the Receipt of Governmental Benefits,” Congressional Research Service, 2015.03.06].
On Dakota Midday, Governor Daugaard rejected the idea of repealing the food tax. Low-income people already get food stamps, said the Governor, and thus don’t need more help buying food. Food stamps are a more targeted solution toward relieving the poor of unfair tax burdens. As it stands, said the Governor, most people paying sales tax on food (“like me,” he said) are perfectly capable of paying sales tax on food. Exempting food from sales tax is too blunt an instrument for providing tax relief to those who really need it.
The Governor offers an interesting policy argument for targeted tax relief for the poor. It sure beats the pants off the arguments we usually hear from pro-corporate Republicans (and this week, the Aberdeen City Council) for targeted tax relief for the rich. I agree with the Governor that, in general , tax relief should not go to people like him and rich French cheesemakers and billionaire trust-fund schemers who are perfectly capable of paying taxes.
But that a Republican governor would say that a federal welfare program is better policy than a tax break enjoyed by every citizen, including rich guys making peanut butter sandwiches, makes me wonder if Dennis Daugaard hasn’t been body-snatched and replaced with Dennis Kucinich. (Expand Medicaid, pay teachers more, and now yay food stamps? Tony, go get a blood sample from the boss!)
Besides, the point of exempting food from sales tax isn’t just to provide direct relief to the poor who make 130% or less of the poverty level. The point of exempting food from sales tax is to temper the regressivity of sales tax for consumers at all income levels in the simplest way possible. You can try to target refunds to low-income folks—South Dakota tried that for a few years, then repealed the program—but then, just like Food Stamps, people have to apply, the state has to hire bureaucrats, and some people don’t get the relief we think they deserves. Exempting food from sales tax guarantees that everyone who buys food gets that tax break. Sure, Dirt-Poor Joe and Middle-Class Mom and Dennis Daugaard and Denny Sanford all get the same two-dollar tax break on their sacks of groceries. But they get that break every time they buy groceries, and that two dollars means a while lot more to Dirt-Poor Joe and somewhat more to Middle-Class Mom than it does to Dennis or Denny. That’s how relief from regressive taxes works: we spread the benefits throughout the system, not just to the lowest income bracket.
Sales tax is regressive. Repealing the food tax would make South Dakota’s sales tax less regressive. I know the Governor prefers to rely on the federal government to provide equity for lower-income South Dakotans, but adopting the Democratic plan to raise the state sales tax to 5% while exempting food from that tax would be a nicely self-reliant way to make South Dakota’s fiscal policies fairer.
Secretary Vilsack reminds us that “SNAP fraud and error rates are at or near historic lows, while every dollar invested in SNAP regenerates $1.74 in economic activity, according to a 2010 study by Moody’s Analytics.” The commenters on his WSJ go ape, shouting the usual tropes of fraud and abuse without any counter-evidence.
The average per person monthly SNAP benefit is $125, about $4.15 per day or $1.39 per meal.
In 2014, 92 percent of the $76 billion spent on SNAP was spent on food, five percent (or $3.8 billion) went to the states to administer the program, and three percent was spent on block grants to fund local programs like food banks.
Historically, SNAP benefits have equaled about 0.3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. During the 2008-2011 economic crisis, however, that figure rose to 0.5 percent. In 2014, it fell to 0.45 percent, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sees it returning to its historic 0.3 percent by 2020 [Alan Guebert, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places,” Lincoln Journal-Star, 2015.04.03].
$4.15 a day—that’s a dozen eggs, loaf of bread, and maybe a pint of milk. While these folks go without fish to fry, Rep. Noem, maybe you and your colleagues should look for bigger legislative fish to fry.