Well looky here. What could possibly go wrong with 46 million people on food stamps and $72 billion up for grabs? It seems that the desperately poor in PA are able to travel to every state in the union to use their EBT cards. That’s funny because I can’t afford to go to Hawaii, but food stamp recipients can. What am I doing wrong? I found it fascinating when I googled “EBT Fraud”. Hundreds of stories from across the country popped up. Try it. It will make you feel real good about the most successful Federal Program that Obama has run in his two and a half years. I can’t wait until these guys have complete control of our healthcare system.
Guess how much JP Morgan makes by administering the SNAP program. Over $5 billion per year. Sweet gig for Obama’s friend Jamie Dimon.
State Auditor General Wagner wants more information about welfare access cards
Published: Thursday, September 15, 2011, 12:12 AM
Pennsylvania’s welfare dollars certainly got around in May 2010.
Some of that money made its way to every state in the country, including Alaska and Hawaii. Some welfare dollars were spent in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
In fact, $5.2 million was spent outside Pennsylvania’s borders that month, according to transactions from electronic-benefits transfer cards given to welfare recipients. It’s only a sliver of the $200 million in cash benefits spend using EBT cards.
But state Auditor General Jack Wagner said he doesn’t know much more about the out-of-state purchases. The state Department of Public Welfare only released limited information, he said.
Repeated requests for more details over the last year, including one as recently as May, have been ignored, he said.
“Were the EBT cards used to purchase poker chips in Atlantic City? We don’t know. Were they used at tattoo parlors in Baltimore? We don’t know,” Wagner said at a news conference Wednesday.
“Were they given to out-of-state residents who simply crossed over into Pennsylvania to obtain EBT cards? We don’t know,” Wagner said.
In a special report, Wagner called for restrictions in EBT cards’ usage and more cooperation from the department. He said its lax oversight of the card program could be contributing to abuse at a time when more people are living below the poverty line and need assistance.
His report cites an incident that occurred May 17 in which someone used an access card to withdraw $147,525 from a welfare account in installments of $1,500. A Welfare Department spokeswoman was unfamiliar with the case and could not comment.
“My intent is not to raise unfair suspicion about welfare recipients,” Wagner said. “Rather, my concern is over DPW’s refusal, and I repeat refusal, to properly administer programs to eliminate the system from being gamed.”
Statewide, some 750,000 Pennsylvanians use EBT cards to access state and federal funds to make $2.5 billion in food and other purchases a year, he said.
Gov. Tom Corbett, who along with Republican legislative leaders has targeted waste and abuse in welfare spending, said he knew nothing about Wagner’s report.
“He hasn’t bothered to pick up the phone and talk to me about it, and I had a conversation with him last week. So I guess when I have my cup of coffee with him, I’ll find out,” Corbett said.
Welfare Department spokeswoman Anne Bale said the agency has taken steps to review the out-of-state transactions and potentially question benefit usage. It also has ordered a review of the food stamp program that EBT cards are used to access.
The department is working with the inspector general in this effort and will work with Wagner, she said.
State Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County, finds Wagner’s report troubling.
“There’s a lot of people who are having trouble making ends meet, and the average person trying to make it through will look at this kind of report, and it will infuriate them,” Vance said.
Vance said she might consider introducing legislation to impose tighter controls on the cards’ usage if the department doesn’t become more proactive in monitoring EBT cards’ usage.
But attorney Michael Froehlich of Philadelphia-based Community Legal Services, which works with low-income residents, pointed out that Wagner’s auditors did not uncover any evidence of waste, fraud or abuse in the out-of-state transactions. He noted that out-of-state transactions represented just 2.5 percent of all the transactions made in May 2010.
Moreover, he said there is nothing illegal about using the card outside the state. He said recipients might use the cards at a nearby store across the state’s border, or to cover expenses when traveling out of state to look for a job, attend a funeral or care for a sick relative.
Vance agrees that there can be valid reasons for using the card outside Pennsylvania. But looking at Wagner’s findings, she said, “I think this kind of exceeds how many valid ones there are.” She said it’s time to take a closer look at how the money is spent.
But Froehlich pointed out that the state constitution gives residents a reasonable expectation that their financial records will remain confidential.
“Just because someone is poor does not mean they have fewer rights under our constitution,” he said.
Details of the transactions are provided by the New York-based financial services firm JPMorgan & Chase Co. The firm is paid about $15 million annually, with the money coming from a $1.75 monthly fee on each card, Wagner said.