The southwest regional office responsible for food stamps is taking heat for a very expensive office upgrade, but the agency is snapping back and arguing the cost was necessary.
Administrator Robin Bailey runs the southeast regional office for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The agency is responsible for administering nutrition assistance programs and is a subdivision of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The local affiliate of NBC News found the regional office spent more than $22,000 taxpayer dollars to surround Bailey with luxurious furnishings.
“The USDA Food and Nutrition Service is committed to being both fiscally responsible and a good steward of the resources entrusted to us by the American people,” an agency spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “[The agency] has concluded that all purchases were for allowable and necessary expenses associated with the normal operations of the FNS Southeast Regional Office.”
The NBC investigation looked at purchase orders as well as information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. It found his office was decorated with gold drape window frames, leather and mahogany conference chairs, a love seat and a large sofa. The four conference chairs alone cost $4,244, while the sofa added an additional $2,075. Bailey also got reimbursements for food and lodging as well as travel expenses.
“The purchases were consistent with Agency policy,” the spokesman added. “All accompanying documentation indicates that standard administrative procedures were properly followed.”
Despite all the expenses, the position was temporary. Bailey was slated to return to Washington, D.C., where the agency named him its new associate administrator and chief operating officer. An interim administrator was named to hold his office until a replacement could be found.
FNS runs several welfare programs with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as its primary focus. According to a report by the USDA, the food stamp program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. The improved economy, though, has helped decrease the number of participants in recent years.
The Congressional Budget Office found, since participation hit its peak in December 2012, the number of people receiving benefits has declined by more than 1.5 million. The size alone has prompted concern over the chances of abuse. In response, there have been many different proposals on the federal and local level to help prevent abuse on the part of administrators and recipients.
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