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Robert Longley

USDA to Help States Stop Food Stamp Fraud

By June 1, 2012

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Food Stamp EBT CardSometimes advertising openly on the internet, an increasing number of food stamp recipients have been stealing millions of tax dollars by illegally selling their benefit cards for cash and then asking the government to replace their "lost" cards.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - federal overseers of food stamps - says that really needs to stop, and has proposed a federal regulation giving the states more power to investigate cases of repeated requests for replacement benefit cards.

Also See: How to Apply for Food Stamps

Under the USDA's proposed new federal regulation, the states would be allowed to demand formal explanations from people who ask for more than three replacement food stamp cards over any twelve-month period. People who refuse to explain why they need so many new foods stamp cards may not get any more of them... ever.

Also See: Federal Regulations: Laws Behind the Acts of Congress

According to USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon, food stamp recipients who sell their benefit cards for profit are guilty of a form of fraud known as "trafficking."

"There are many legitimate reasons for replacing cards and the vast majority of recipients follow the rules," Concannon said in a press release. "But we are concerned that a few bad actors are using replacement cards to exchange SNAP benefits for cash, commonly referred to as trafficking."

SNAP, by the way, stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the official name of the food stamp program. While overseen by the federal government, the SNAP program is administered by the individual states.

People - "bad actors" -- found guilty of food stamp trafficking may not only be banned from receiving future food stamp benefits, but may also face fines and jail time.

The USDA's proposed regulation would require the states to ensure that persons who may tend to legitimately lose multiple food stamp cards, such as the disabled and homeless people, or the elderly, are not falsely accused of committing fraud.

"We are committed to meeting the highest standards of accountability when it comes to protecting taxpayer dollars and enhancing the integrity of SNAP," Concannon said. "Americans continue to support helping struggling families put food on the table but they want to know that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely."

Also See:
GAO Finds Food Stamp Program Efficiency Improving
Food Stamp Participation Growing
Top Government Benefit Programs

Photo: Electronic Food Stamp Card - Getty Images



June 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm
(1) Robert Longley says:

Conceptually this makes a lot of sense. There are a couple of problems though. The clients don’t need to give up their cards to sell their benefits if there is collusion with a vendor. Also, most recipients are able to withdraw cash as part of their transaction so there isn’t as much incentive to sell cards as there was with checks. The biggest problem is that for those who do break the rules and get banned, what happens when they are parents? It’s not just their benefits they are selling, it’s their children’s. Technically this constitutes child abuse and neglect, This makes enforcement very complicated.

June 2, 2012 at 6:04 am
(2) usgovinfo says:

@Robert: The rules for SNAP vendors and what recipients can do/buy with their cards are set by the states and thus vary. The new rule simply gives the states — operating withing their specific laws — to investigate suspected cases of fraud.

September 15, 2012 at 4:41 am
(3) Jeremy says:

This is just a vote-getting issue, directed to the masses who believe everything government and media feeds to them.

Anyone with common sense should be able to figure out that there isn’t a single dollar “stolen”. JP Morgan or another big bank makes $2.00 on every replacement EBT card.

Nobody but the card owner loses. The banks make money on the issuance of replacement EBT cards, the store owners make bigger profits by giving the card owner cash instead of food products at retail value, and local, state, and federal “investigative” workers make money “tracking” potential fraud.

Wake up, folks. There isn’t any “loss”. The amount of money available food on those cards remains the same no matter whose hands they’re in.

Why pay federal and state worker’s high salaries to spend their days trying to catch those who sell all or part of their $138 (average) SNAP benefits for less than the actual value?

That’s ridiculous. Who cares. They should give them the money to start with. If they don’t spend it on food, well, then, they don’t spend it on food.

WHO CARES? It is the card holder who will go without food.

Big government spending to find people who are trading value on SNAP card for cash.

Think, people. Walmart, and all the big grocery chains depend on SNAP purchases.

State welfare department workers, and federal SNAP workers depend on the program to keep them in their jobs. Without the SNAP program, most of them would be out of work.

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