Today, Congressman Bruce Poliquin held a press conference in Lewiston to unveil legislation to make important changes to the welfare system, making taxpayer dollars less susceptible to abuse and fraud.
Last year, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services prosecuted a record number of welfare fraud cases, totaling more than $1.2 million in fraudulently obtained benefits. Despite the drastic uptick in welfare fraud investigations and prosecutions, the problem of welfare abuse in Maine continues to persist. This year is already on track to break last year’s record with 29 cases totaling more than $456,000 already on the books.
There is no denying that welfare abuse is a problem in Maine (and beyond). Congressman Poliquin’s proposal would deter drug dealers from using EBT cards (your hard-earned money) as currency, ensuring that these dollars go to those for whom they are intended by making the following changes to current law:
- Currently, states must automatically replace EBT cards, and are only allowed to initiate an extensive investigation after the fourth replacement card request. This bill would allow states to require a face-to-face interview after the second EBT card replacement, and allow the state to deny the issuance of a replacement after the fourth request by one cardholder within a 12-month period.
- Currently, recipients convicted of EBT card fraud, or of defrauding the government in any way, are eligible to receive benefits again after one year. Under this legislation, those individuals would become permanently disqualified.
- Currently, some felons, including those convicted of terrorism, are eligible to receive SNAP benefits and drug traffickers are eligible to receive benefits after two years. This legislation would permanently disqualify all felons, including those who have been convicted of drug trafficking and terrorism.
- Currently, those delinquent in paying child support and taxes are not disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits. Under this legislation, delinquent individuals will not become eligible to receive these taxpayer-funded benefits without an approved payment plan.
- Currently, able-bodied adults have work, volunteer or training requirements to receive SNAP benefits. Failure to do so for three months within a three-year period results in removal from the program for the remainder of the three years, or until they comply. Under this legislation, those requirements are extended to a four-year period, meaning that if they fail to work, volunteer or train for three months within the four-year period, they become ineligible until either the end of the four years, or until they comply with the work requirement.