News 4 Investigates: Food Stamp debt doesn't go away - KMOV.com

News 4 Investigates: Food Stamp debt doesn't go away

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Police accused a St. Louis County man of illegally receiving food stamps for nearly two years. Police accused a St. Louis County man of illegally receiving food stamps for nearly two years.
Springfield, Ill. (KMOV.com) -

Missouri and Illinois combined are owed back nearly $200 million in food stamp debt.

Stephanie Carruthers said her mother recently received a notice from the Illinois Department of Human Services claiming she was overpaid $1,345 in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) benefits in 1986. 

"I was completely confused, baffled" said Carruthers. 

She said her parents received SNAP, known as food stamps in 1986, for a brief period during the farm crisis.

According to Alex Jordan at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), Carruthers' mother "had assets that were above the asset limit she failed to report." 

Carruthers is far from alone.

In Springfield, the Illinois Department of Human Services is working to retrieve $182 million in SNAP over-payments. 

In Jefferson City, the Missouri Department of Social Services is working to recoup approximately $12 million. 

Both states are required by federal law to collect the debt, some of which dates back to the 1970's. 

Carruthers says her mother has lived at the same address for more than four decades, but nobody has ever attempted to collect the debt in person.

According to the IDHS, the state lacks the resources to collect in person, so multiple letters are sent instead.

In October, 26,000 letters were mailed out in an attempt to collect old SNAP debt. 

According to IDHS, old SNAP debt is referred to the IRS, and eventually a Social Security check can be garnished.

Carruthers said she's worried about her parents Social Security check, however, 30 years after the debt was created nothing has happened. 

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