This week, the Maine Department of Health and Human Service announced that they are on track to break last year’s record number of uncovered welfare fraud causes.
“We’re seeing an awful lot of welfare fraud,” DHHS Director of Fraud Operations Tom Rath admitted to WCHS-TV.
Last year, the DHHS Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit prosecuted 105 cases which totaled more than $1.2 million in fraudulently obtained benefits. Already this year, the unit has found 29 prosecutable cases, which have a total of more than $456,000 in stolen benefits.
“We definitely have more calls coming in than we have people to handle,” said Rath. The Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit has numerous officers spread across 10 offices throughout the state.
But Rath acknowledged that the support and help from the State Government has been critical to the unit’s success. Rath also warned that the cases of welfare are becoming increasingly alarming and unsettling.
“People using deceased people’s EBT cards, and they’re using it as if it were their own,” said Rath. “People are upset that the benefits their taxes support are being used illegally.”
Maine has greatly increased its focus on prosecuting welfare fraud under the LePage Administration. In 2009, there was not a single case welfare fraud prosecuted. But that number increased to 10 in 2010, 32 in 2011, 45 in 2012, 66 in 2013, and 81 in 2014.
LePage has also championed other common-sense welfare reforms such as work-requirements, a 5-year cap on welfare benefits, stricter requirements for Medicaid, and drug-testing for recipients convicted of drug crimes.
Additionally, Maine is now leading the nation in its reduction of the size of its SNAP program. It has also reduced the size of its Medicaid program by over 70,000 people, and shrunk the size of its TANF cases from 15,000 to less than 5,000.
This has not only saved millions of taxpayer dollars, but it’s also allowed the state to prioritize welfare spending on those who are most deserving of assistance.