65,000 stayed on food stamp rolls despite winning big in lottery, government data show

A government watchdog group uncovered that well over 65,000 substantial lottery winners since 2019 continued collecting food stamps, even when they were over the federal income threshold for the program. 

The Foundation for Government Accountability’s survey of data from thirteen states shows recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, took home substantial lottery winnings ranging from $4,250 to $2 million, all amounts above the federal asset threshold to qualify for the government assistance program. 

“It shocks the conscious and defies belief,” Hayden Dublois, data and analytics director at FGA, told Fox News Digital. “And this is data from only 13 states. The 50-state number is likely titanic. The scale of the problem is staggering — even by government standards.”

During that span of time, fewer than 400 lottery winners were removed from the food stamp program, according to FGA. That program has 41.8 million people enrolled, an increase of about 5 million since before the pandemic. 

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Powerball and Mega Millions lottery tickets (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

And it’s a costly program. Food stamp spending has doubled from $60 billion in 2019 to $120 billion last year.

“The food stamp program is a safety net meant to help the truly needy, not lottery winners or millionaires,” Dulois said. “All it would take is a simple database cross-check and asset test, but most states don’t do it.” 

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In its research, FGA concluded that among the 13 states surveyed, Illinois ranked the worst. The Land of Lincoln had over 50,000 winners of substantial lottery prizes on food stamps, but only removed 99, FGA found. 

FGA argues that a solution to this problem could be adding reforms to the food stamp program in the pending Farm Bill, a package passed every five years that determines policy and funding levels for agriculture, food assistance programs, natural resources and other programs. 

Bodega in NYC with EBT sign

A bodega in Queens, N.Y.   (Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A number of Republican lawmakers in both chambers on Capitol Hill have already introduced measures that would close a loophole in the food stamp program that allows ineligible recipients to stay enrolled. 

In June, Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., introduced the No Welfare for the Wealthy Act, which aims to establish asset and income thresholds for Americans to qualify for SNAP. It would end what is known as broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) for these programs, which allows Americans whose wealth is higher than the federal guidelines for these programs to still receive food assistance.

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Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced a similar bill in September. The Snap Back Inaccurate SNAP Payments Act, she says, could reduce spending by nearly $1 billion a month by requiring all errors, regardless of the amount, to be counted and directing state governments to stop giving out ineligible benefits or they will have to eat some of the costs. 

Grocery store

A number of Republican lawmakers in both chambers on Capitol Hill have already introduced measures that would close a loophole in the food stamp program that lets ineligible recipients stay enrolled.  (Xinhua via Getty Images)

“Families across the country are going hungry while bureaucrats are jumping the line to gobble up SNAP dollars, either as a meal ticket to beef up state budgets or a self-serve buffet of benefits for themselves or others who do not qualify,” Ernst said in September. 

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“It’s time for states at fault to pay the piper and eat the costs of their taxpayer waste. Instead of overserving bureaucrats, let’s end the waste and set a place at the table for hungry families.”