About 650 cases of fraud found as asset test takes effect
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG – The state Department of Public Welfare removed more than 600 people from the food stamp rolls this week after determining they were fraudulently accessing benefits from other states.
A review of out-of-state welfare recipients turned up 653 people who were using the department’s Electronic Benefits Transfer system, or EBT, to collect benefits through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps.
By removing those fraudulent recipients from the rolls, the department will avoid $927,000 in costs over the next six months.
“This is a victory for all Pennsylvanians who legitimately use and need our social safety net and for the hardworking taxpayers who pay the bills,” said Gary Alexander, secretary of the department, in a statement.
The department’s analysis found that food stamps were the most commonly accessed Pennsylvania benefits by people living in another state. Other programs being used by out-of-state recipients included cash assistance, Medical Assistance, or a combination of cash, medical and food stamps.
About 2 million Pennsylvanians are currently receiving food stamp benefits, according to data from the department.
The findings of fraud coincide with the department’s plan to reinstate an asset test that will make it more difficult to qualify for benefits.
Beginning on May 1, the state reintroduced an “asset test” that had been discontinued in 2008 as an additional screen on SNAP eligibility. Households with members over 60 years of age will be limited to no more than $9,000 in assets, while households without anyone over age 60 will be limited to Families with more than $4,650 in assets.
Households that exceed the threshold are no longer eligible for food stamps.
The value of homes, retirement benefits and one car are not counted towards the asset test, but a second car worth more than $4,650 would be.
“We will leave no stone unturned when it comes to rooting out fraud, waste and abuse,” Alexander said.