The state expects to hear within several weeks if it will have to pay back bonuses it received for high participation rates in the food stamp program. The participation actually was much less than the state reported.

The Department of Social Services has been talking with the federal agriculture department after dicsovering a computer programming error showed Missouri had 264-thousand more people on food stamps than it actually had. The USDA had given Missouri 14-million dollars in bonuses and had praised the state for being a national leader in making sure eligible people were enrolled.

The computer problem began in 2002 and the disparity gradually built up until it was discovered in October. Program director Alyson Campbell says part of the system worked while the reporting system failed. Although the system listed too many recipients, it did not allow any actual recipients to get too much money.

The Department expects to hear in the next “several weeks” how much of the 14-million dollars in participation bonuses will have to be paid back. Deputy Social Services Director Brian Kinkade says the department has held on to about five-and-a-half million dollars in bonus money for payback to USDA. He does not know if the state will need to pay back more.

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