Welfare fraud in Massachusetts continues to fall from pre-pandemic levels, according to an annual state report released last month.

Rule violations among Massachusetts’ four welfare programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), decreased in 2021. Such violations range from obtaining benefits without qualifying for them to spending benefits beyond their allowed use.

The number of violations has decreased since the beginning of the pandemic, as the office that runs the programs — under the Department of Transitional Assistance — changed some of its procedures to focus on providing resources to those in need and suspended hearings regarding fraud investigations.

“Nearly all individuals receiving public assistance through DTA programs use benefits as intended,” the report said.

Catherine Drennan Lynn, senior director of communications and public affairs for the Greater Boston Food Bank, told GBH News that the report helps break the stigma that people abuse food assistance programs like SNAP.

“In fact, it’s actually used really, really well and there’s such a very small margin of misuse in this program,” Lynn said.

Nearly 1 million Massachusetts residents use one of the four programs’ benefits. In 2021, there were 168 intentional violations and 630 unintentional violations, which together total nearly $700,000 in savings for the state, according to the report. The previous year, the total violations topped 1,000; in 2019, there were more than 4,500.

Likewise, the number of cases referred for criminal investigations by the state auditor’s office dropped by two-thirds compared to 2019, from over 6,000 to around 2,000.

The one increase noted in the report was the number of ATMs and point of sale terminals at prohibited locations, such as liquor stores and recreational marijuana dispensaries, which are blocked by the office: 683 were blocked in 2021, up from 480 in 2020. The DTA prevented approximately $20,000 of benefits being spent at dispensaries last year, according to the report.

Despite the low fraud rates, the report says the DTA has been adding staff to its Program Integrity Division in the last several years to monitor for fraud. Deborah Harris, a senior attorney with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, said those resources could be better spent elsewhere.

“The fault lies, not particularly in this instance, with the administration, but with the system and the rules that the Legislature created,” Harris said.

And as the state rolls back pandemic restrictions, Lynn worries that more violations will be issued as policy changes introduced during the pandemic will go away.

“There have been a lot of barriers that have been removed during COVID to make sure that this program is accessible to every individual in need,” she said, specifically regarding SNAP. “And, what we’d like to see and what we’ve been advocating for is that those waivers are permanent and that those flexibilities are permanent so that people can continue to access the program.”

A spokesperson for the DTA did not respond by the time of publication.