The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is reducing benefits paid out to Mainers through the food supplement program in order to repay the federal government for overpayments the state made last year. DHHS paid out higher-than-allowed benefits to 53,000 households between April and August 2011.
Last April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture ended a temporary expansion of benefits paid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but Maine didn't reduce the benefits it was paying out until August, according to the Bangor Daily News. The USDA now wants the state to repay the money. DHHS will reduce payments to households in the coming months to offset the overpayments. Each household will end up paying back about $80, for a total of $4.2 million.
DHHS spokesman John Martins told the paper Maine law requires DHHS to make a formal rule change before it can reduce benefits, resulting in the lag. He said the department will explore ways to prevent a similar situation in the future.