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NSLP/SBP Access, Participation, Eligibility, and Certification Study: Erroneous Payments in the NSLP and SBP

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Erroneous payments in the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs occur when school districts claim reimbursement at the free or reduced-price rate for meals served to students who are not eligible. They can also happen when schools don't claim reimbursement for children who have applied and are eligible (called certification error). Errors in reporting the number and type of meals in claims for reimbursement (called noncertification error) also create erroneous payments. This report from Mathematica's Access, Participation, Eligibility, and Certification study estimates the amounts and rates of erroneous payments. Slightly more than one in five children was certified inaccurately or erroneously denied meal benefits. The authors also found that household reporting error was substantially more prevalent than administrative error. Approximately nine percent of total reimbursements for both the lunch and breakfast programs were erroneous due to certification errors, although the amounts and rates of most erroneous payments due to noncertification errors were relatively small.