The Sandusky Register last week urged the 9,000 plus recipients of SNAP (food stamp) benefits to get their cards recharged soon as officials fear that money from the feds could be curtailed due to the shutdown and because many new people might be applying.
However, interesting to me in this story is a section at the end about alerting authorities if you see fraud.
You might recall the controversy in Washington, DC last spring when signs went up in the metro system alerting people about how to spot SNAP fraud. The DC government reacted quickly and had them removed “…apologizing to residents for sharing a message that is not a reflection of our values.” (See the story at Breitbart)
Here is a bit of the story from the Sandusky Register,
About 9,300 local recipients at risk of receiving food stamps
Erie County, officials distribute about $1 million monthly to the 9,300 recipients!
SANDUSKY — An ongoing partial federal government shutdown could open up a possibility in which thousands of Erie County residents won’t receive a monthly payment to purchase food.
Erie County Job and Family Services workers on Monday issued an alert to the 9,300 active Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program local recipients about obtaining their February benefits as soon as Wednesday, two weeks earlier than normal. Officials and recipients often shorten the phrase to “SNAP,” referred to by others as “food stamps.”
Agencies nationwide want to release February’s SNAP benefits ahead of time so recipients can best prepare themselves and their dependents.
But why is this happening?
In short, only enough money exists to provide these users — many of which are guardians or custodians with multiple children and senior citizens on fixed incomes — their normal financial allotment placed on Electronic Benefit Transfer cards through February.
But, after that, there’s no guarantee the U.S. Department of Agriculture can keep funding this program, leaving agencies, such as Erie County Job and Family Services, hamstrung in helping out people. The shutdown has significantly scaled back department operations. Many of its workers, for instance, aren’t getting paid, and various services overseen by the department have been reduced or altogether stopped.
But then much to my surprise the article goes in to a discussion about SNAP fraud:
Figuring out food stamp fraud
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program , or SNAP, benefits can only be used for food and for plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:
• Any nonfood item, such as pet food; soaps, paper products, and household supplies; grooming items, toothpaste, and cosmetics
• Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
• Vitamins and medicines
• Any food that will be eaten in the store
• Hot foods
“If people see abuse, report it to us, and we will investigate if that person’s benefits are being sold or abused,” said Vicki Bayer, Erie County Job and Family Services’ deputy director of community services.
Of course the “sold” part refers to the massive fraud of trafficking in food stamps.
New GAO study!
A new GAO study was released last week outlining the amount of fraud and what the government needs to do to stop it.
If you don’t know how trafficking works they have a cool graphic to show you.
A summary begins with this:
Millions of households rely on the $64 billion Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, to buy food. But some stores are defrauding the program by “selling” cash instead of food. For example, a store might give a person $50 in exchange for $100 in benefits—then pocket the difference.
How widespread is this “retailer trafficking”? The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) reports that $1 billion in benefits are trafficked annually. However, the real extent is uncertain and could be anywhere from $960 million to $4.7 billion.
Looking for something to do? Anyone who has been suspicious about a small grocery store, a gas station, or convenience store near you, should take the time to see what the GAO says and then consider turning the store in for investigation.
Endnote: As I build this website, I’ll be developing categories for your future reference. See my Food Stamp fraud category by clicking here.
For a more extensive catalog of Food Stamp fraud stories visit RRW, here.