Delegate Tony McConkey's Official Blog

Maryland Is Number 1 Again – Food Stamp Fraud

food-stamp-fraudMaryland is number one, again. For the second year in a row we lead the nation in food stamp fraud.

Sep 2, 2015 – 51% Of Immigrant Households On Welfare – Exam
Aug 31, 2015 – Maryland Welfare Benefits Better Than Most European Countries – Rptr
Jun 30, 2015 – Maryland Welfare Fraud Finally Being Reduced – Rptr
Aug 25, 2013 – Federal Welfare Programs Kill The Incentive To Work – Cato
Jul 26, 2013 – Food Stamp Audit Shows Problems In 100% Of Cases Sampled! – Rptr
May 25, 2013 – Food Stamps More Than Double In Anne Arundel – Capital (sorry – article no longer available)
Apr 30, 2013 – Food Stamps For Illegal Aliens – Red State
Apr 26, 2013 – USDA Doesn’t Check Alien Status For Food Stamps – Breitbart
Apr 23, 2013 – Est Cost Of Food Stamp Fraud Doubles In 3 Years – CNS
Apr 2, 2013 – NC Vote Paves Way For Food Stamp Applicant Background – Wash Times

It is so bad that the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture fined the state $742,238 in 2010 and $1,474,999 in 2011. Maryland’s food stamp program known officially now as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a $837 million program that is administered by the Maryland Family Investment Administration (FIA).

The FIA also administers the Temporary Cash Assistance Program (TCA), $141 million and Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) $150 million. A recent state audit disclosed that in 28,700 cases the recipient’s social security number was either missing or unverified and 2,600 of those cases “had been outstanding for over a year without resolution.” Other food stamp cases lacking proper documentation required “between 107 to 256 days to correct”.

With respect to home energy assistance, the audit “specifically noted that Maryland does not have a procedure to validate (social security numbers), check death records, check for incarcerated individuals, and verify reported income with outside sources.” Really, what else is there? It sounds like all the money is being doled out on the honor system.

The department heads say they are working to address the problem but continually deny the problem’s severity. Over the course of several hearings I have continually pressed the departments and I am frustrated more is not being done. A request by the auditors to do a follow up review was not granted and the legislature appears unlikely to force the departments to act.

Maybe the lack of urgency is because much of the money is federal funds which is often not treated as real money in Annapolis. Alternatively, maybe some are thinking that in these hard economic times we should be more generous in handing out money to the “down troddin” and not be too strict with the rules including restrictions prohibiting funds from being given to illegal aliens. To both I would reply that money, even federal money, is limited and that for each ineligible recipient receiving money, money is being taken from others more worthy.

With so little adherence to documentation, you would think applications would speed through the department; however, even though the department is failing to protect the taxpayer, the department is failing our neediest citizens prompting a lawsuit that is still outstanding.

In 2009 a lawsuit was filed claiming that the department violated federal and state law by failing to process applications and determine eligibility within the required 30-day timeframe for food stamps and TCA benefits. The court ordered the department to achieve full compliance (96% of cases) within a year which they say has been achieved.

Pressure to speed up applications can only make the problems of fraud and abuse worse without a new commitment from the Governor. Problems in Maryland’s welfare programs can be more fully viewed at the website for the Office of Legislative Audits at http://www.ola.state.md.us/.

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