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South Dakota Runs Tight SNAP Ship, But Error Rate Triples Since 2009

South Dakota is refusing to accept federal assistance to boost food stamps for kids in the summer because such aid is too hard to administer. Yet just yesterday, the state was bragging about how good the Department of Social Services is at running SNAP:

South Dakota’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the nation’s most efficient and effectively run programs, according to payment error rates recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

SNAP is a federal-state partnership that helps low-income South Dakotans purchase the food they need to stay healthy while they work to regain financial independence. The SNAP payment error rates measure the accuracy of a state’s determination of household eligibility and the amount of benefit a recipient is to receive. South Dakota’s accuracy rate was 97 percent, the best among all 50 states. The national rate was 88 percent.

“The accuracy rate is a testament of our hard work in ensuring SNAP is operating with integrity within our state,” said Department of Social Services (DSS) Cabinet Secretary Matt Althoff. “It’s vital that we ensure participants get the benefit amounts they are entitled to, while also prioritizing the efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars.”

The USDA measures both the overpayment and underpayment rates to arrive at the error and accuracy rates. The rate is a measure of clerical mistakes or wrong or inaccurate information received from a participant.

“South Dakota’s low payment error rate reflects the dedicated efforts of our specialists in DSS’s economic assistance division and their careful attention given to each case they are asked to process,” Althoff said. “We are very grateful to have earned this distinction as it reflects the quality of training provided to our staff and the commitment the Department’s leadership holds to refining our processes and procedures” [Department of Social Services, press release, 2023.07.18].

Since 2003, South Dakota has led the nation in food-stamp accuracy. In the fiscal years with good data, South Dakota has consistently ranked in the top three for SNAP accuracy; the only year when we ranked lower was 2014, when we ranked 9th at 1.26%. Our lowest error rate was 0.94% in 2009 (Florida beat us that year with a 0.70% error rate). In Fiscal Year 2018, our error rate was a best-in-the-nation 1.04%; in 2019, 2.41%, second to Idaho at 1.25%. Our FY 2022 error rate of 3.07% is the highest reported in South Dakota in the past two decades.


  1. P. Aitch 2023-07-19 07:42

    Tops in the nation in accuracy of food stamp dispersal? That doesn’t pass the assistant’s “smell test”.
    ~ While having the nation’s lowest error rate in dispensing food stamps may seem like a positive achievement, it is not always an entirely good thing. Here are a few reasons why:

    1. Lack of access for eligible individuals: A low error rate may indicate that fewer people are able to access the benefits they are entitled to. Stringent eligibility requirements and strict verification processes can inadvertently exclude eligible individuals, causing them to miss out on much-needed food assistance.

    2. Administrative barriers: Achieving a low error rate often requires implementing complex administrative measures to prevent any errors from occurring. However, these measures can lead to increased bureaucracy and administrative burdens, making it harder for both applicants and caseworkers to navigate the process efficiently. This can result in delays and discourage eligible individuals from applying or continuing to receive assistance.

    3. Underutilization of benefits: A low error rate might suggest that some eligible individuals are not aware of the program or do not understand how to apply for benefits. This can lead to underutilization of available assistance, leaving vulnerable populations without the support they need to meet their nutritional needs.

    4. Limited program outreach: Focusing on maintaining a low error rate may lead to less emphasis on promoting and expanding the program to reach those who are eligible but not currently enrolled. As a result, a significant number of eligible individuals may be left without access to essential food assistance.

    Ultimately, while a low error rate is an important aspect of an efficient food stamp program, it should not overshadow the need to ensure accessible, user-friendly processes for eligible individuals. Striking a balance between minimizing errors and maximizing program utilization is crucial to effectively address food insecurity in a population. – P. Aitch’s Assistant

  2. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-07-19 09:38

    P.Aitch’s Assistant is well informed and correct, and the last paragraph sums the “tight ship” philosophy up neatly.

    IIRC, the SNAP program is Federally funded, but the individual states administer and distribute benefits. I am only familiar with Fall River County’s SNAP program’s administration; the individual case worker (benefits specialist) can wield disproportionate power over the approval or disapproval of benefits. For instance:

    Have more than one vehicle? Off with your head! Oh, your 2000 Toyota Camry was totalled by an unisured motorist and you received NOTHING from insurance? Too bad, so sad! You’re still not eligible for EBT because you were frugal and paid off your mortgage and have no rent. Yeah, your 2021 AGI was $8,252.00 and your property taxes were $250 a month, so what? That’s not housing costs – don’t you be coming around here, bothering us social workers with your problems – off with your head AGAIN! No SNAP benefits for you, whiner. You get a “Senior Box” monthly through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program? Hope you like living on pasta, rice, beans, instant mashed potatoes, grits, children’s cereal, dried yellow peas, bad peanut butter, canned okra, kale, mixed vegetables, mixed fruit, petrified raisins, prunes, pickled greenbeans (?) and creamed corn.

    I, of course, have no personal experience with the SD “SNAP Ship” so I would not be able to tell you about a SNAP case worker who weighs 400+ pounds (that would be fat shaming) and that is A Bad Thing. Seriously. My bad.

  3. P. Aitch 2023-07-19 11:23

    So accurate, dear Bonnie.

    Since Franklin Roosevelt South Dakota has had a “Greyhound” plan in regard to those unfortunate enough to need a hand once in a while or forever for that matter.

    “It’s not the state’s fault you’re disabled, now, is it? It might be federal money but we’re in charge!”

    If your case is going to make your case worker and their supervisor look “soft on welfare” you’re offered a bus ticket to Minneapolis or Denver and told SD will forward your paperwork.

  4. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-07-19 22:32

    Uff da. Forgot about the canned collard greens.

  5. DaveFN 2023-07-20 01:13

    Bonnie B Fairbank

    Get your own AI assistant. Or reverse engineer that of pathetic PHL IV who resorts to same since he can’t speak with his own voice and makes an idiot of himself when he tried to do so. That would make PHL IV obsolete, of course. Good thing though that may be.

    In turn, your resort to AI would serve to make you obsolete as well.

  6. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-07-20 08:56


    I don’t know who PHL IV is, and I don’t know anything enough about AI to resort to it.

  7. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-07-20 17:50


    Upon reading the comments under the “Brookings Paper” article, PHL IV is P. Aitch.
    All kidding aside, I’m 67 and pretty much already obsolete, but thank you for your kind words, DaveFN. I’m SOOOO mired in the past I was startled to hear “AI” in polite, non-agricultural conversation, and wondered why these women were discussing artificial insemination.

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