Sunday, December 18, 2016

Yet again, it looks like welfare is being abused

I note with displeasure that in Massachusetts, Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards are once again in the news.

In the 18-month period [from Jan. 1, 2015, to July 1, 2016], more than $7.3 million in Bay State welfare funds were spent outside the state, including $2.4 million in New Hampshire, $780,000 in Connecticut and $549,000 in the Sunshine State of Florida.

In that period, Mass. EBT cards were also used 1,335 times in Puerto Rico to access more than $110,000 in welfare cash.

State Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) has long campaigned in the Legislature against welfare fraud and abuse.

“I continue to advocate for an end to out-of-state usage and to limit cash access,” she said. “Taxpayer-funded EBT cards should not be paying for vacations. The state should revoke cards used out of state.”

Another $134,000 in welfare cash was accessed in the cities and towns around Walt Disney World in Florida, more than $11,000 in Las Vegas and another $2,289 in Hawaii.

Welfare recipients also accessed $2,054 in Atlantic City, N.J., and another $2,144 in Uncasville, Conn., home of the Mohegan Sun casino, including $600 accessed at 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd.

. . .

In the 18-month period, state welfare recipients accessed nearly $100,000 at liquor stores across New England.

. . .

Other findings from the DTA’s public records:

  • $22,700 in welfare funds for “needy families” was accessed at stores with the words “Tobacco,” “Smoke,” “Cigar” and “Cigarette” in their names, including stores in Pineville and Cut Off, La., Moultrie, Ga., as well as stores in North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.
  • Almost $10,000 was accessed in one tobacco store in Dorchester alone.
  • About $19,000 cash was accessed in beauty stores and nail salons, mostly in Boston and other urban areas in Massachusetts, but also including four in Brooklyn and two in the Bronx.
  • More than two dozen bars, clubs and taverns have recorded EBT transactions totaling $7,200 with lounges in Lawrence and Springfield leading the way.
  • An EBT tab of $14 was run up at a Pennsylvania lounge called “the Swingers’ Club.”
  • More than $4,500 in state welfare benefits were accessed at one jewelry store in Springfield, Conn.
  • Massachusetts welfare recipients spent nearly $6,000 in the Virgin Islands, including $1,374 at a single restaurant in St. Thomas.

There's more at the link.

I don't expect the Massachusetts bureaucracy to do anything about this.  They've got their marching orders from that state's administration, which doesn't want to offend low-income voters and thereby jeopardize their electoral support . . . but it's infuriating to taxpayers, who must watch their hard-earned dollars blown away on self-indulgence by those who can least afford it.

I don't know whether there's an answer to this.  I'm aware that some people claim it's cruel or inhumane to expect those 'on the dole' to do without luxuries;  but if my tax dollars are being appropriated, without so much as a 'by your leave', to pay for them, I have a vested interest in the issue, and my voice should be heard.  Right now, Massachusetts taxpayers have no say at all in the matter.  What's more, Massachusetts is only one state in the Union.  Many others have the same problem - they just don't talk about it.  Some even legally restrict the availability of information of this kind, to make sure no-one knows about it unless some journalist(s) do some very dedicated digging indeed.

John Stossel is one of the few reporters who've tackled this problem head-on.  Here's one of his reports from 2010.

Stossel also produced this 2011 special report titled 'Freeloaders'.  It's infuriating, but very informative viewing, showing that not just welfare recipients, but some of the biggest companies in the nation are dependent on taxpayer handouts.  Highly recommended.

And the net result of such freeloading is what Massachusetts is now experiencing, as a microcosm of what's happening all around the country.



Jonathan H said...

I have to wonder about all of those except New Hampshire - Mass shares a long border with NH and much of the population, including Boston, is in easy reach of it - I know of MANY people who head to NH for shopping; taxes and costs are MUCH lower there.
I don't mind Mass losing that business!

Gail said...

I have no problem when people NEED help but when I struggle to pay bills and put food on the table I do deeply resent the abuse. Heck, I cut my own hair because I can't afford to pay someone!

Anonymous said...

it may be too late to correct it all until it all falls apart


Anonymous said...

Instead of giving those in supposed need bet, snap, wic or whatever I've always been a proponent in giving them actual provisions. Every month they get basic foodstuffs purchased in bulk by the government. You get basic, generic foods like flour shortening, sugar, cheese, canned fruit and vegetables, powdered milk and eggs. Yeah the fraud will still be there but it'll be more difficult and the incentive to be on the dole will be less.

You have to also start imposing penalties for irresponsible behavior. Having multiple kids just for the checks needs to be stopped. Mandatory birth control like depo or mirena if you're on welfare. Ask anyone who works in an obgyn office how the government is actively subsidizing and encouraging single motherhood especially in the minority communities. If you're on welfare everything is free. Go whore it up! Uncle Sugar will pick up the tab! It's infuriating.

I have absolutely no issue with supporting the truly crippled and infirm and doing so generously. If you're able bodied you get the barest necessities and you work for those.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 2148 has the answer. There are certainly people who find themselves in need of assistance (the degree of self-infliction of the original "need for need" and/or its perpetuation is a separate discussion), and it is not unreasonable to demonstrate compassion toward their plight.

It is just as reasonable, while assuaging their unfortunateness, to do so in as efficient a means as possible. To that end, pre-packaged "food units" consisting of necessities packaged to meet the needs of standard family units - individual, couple, adults with children, elderly adults etc. - be assembled, stocked and distributed. For those unable to travel, there are a number of established organizations - UPS, FedEx, USPS, local couriers, etc. - who have transport and distribution expertise available for hire.

Given the interconnectivity of modern life It is entirely possible to use a government-issued EBT card nearly anywhere on the planet, and for nearly any purpose; I suspect the same is not true of 5 pounds of flour or 2 quarts of instant non-fat dry milk, although it has been demonstrated that any system created by mankind has the potential to be overtaken by those intent on abusing it.

As regarding clothing, direct billing to the aid-providing agency on behalf of the named recipient (whether it be privately or publicly funded is irrevelant) from organizations such as Goodwill Industries, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, local thrift stores, church rummage sales, etc., can fulfill that need without direct exchange of monies, also providing a detailed audit trail for future examination, especially should government funds - which by their very nature attract fraudulent activity - be utilized.

It should be noted that for centuries there have been a plethora of organizations created for, and dedicated to, precisely that task (many have religious foundation or affiliation which appears to provoke revulsion or angst among those not so affiliated, and issue which could be addressed, but probably never resolved, by reasonable discussion).

The alternative to more prudent management of the issue may be the complete and total abolition of any public-based support for those in need When The Government Money Runs Out.

Peripatetic Engineer said...

Well, the booze is cheaper in NH!

This will continue as long as it is tolerated. It should be a simple matter to track down the key offenders and take away their benefits but no politician will do it because that;s how they buy votes.

Forkboy said...

I'm kind of conflicted on this one.

If it's cash benefits, and the people on the program budgeted for the stuff, it may leave a bad taste in my mouth personally but it's kosher. Cash is cash, and once they have it, it's the recipient's to do with as they please. If it's happening a lot I would say they probably need to revisit their benefit amounts.

Unfortunately it doesn't specify if the charges were against the SNAP (cash version of food stamps) or the TANF (cash benefits without restrictions), if it was SNAP I would say it's time for Massachusetts to go back to printing food stamps or start restricting the use of those EBT cards to food stores only.

fjord said...

“I am for doing good to the poor, but...I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed...that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

― Benjamin Franklin

Kids today graduate high school with the entire intention on going on the dole.
Kids today as young as 6th grade (or younger) know that you are paid to have babies out of wedlock. Uncle Sugar will be the daddy.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

What I want to know is: How in the hell is it possible to use an EBT card for restaurant (and lounge) purchases when, for most users, there's a cap on how much monthly cash-equivalent entitlement said user is allowed (by law)? And, then, only for food and food-product purchases at participating supermarket chains and convenience stores?

Something's missing in this story ...

Tal Hartsfeld said...

...and tobacco stores and beauty salons?
Legitimate EBT card users are quite apt to become so-o-o-o-o jealous!

Forkboy said...

@ Tal Hartsfeld

Not sure on the details of the ones issued by Mass, but in PA, they get issued through a bank (who gets a cut from the program) and they work just like visa debits.

DaddyBear said...

For a time, growing up, my family was on a massive amount of welfare. We fell into a social circle of hustlers, cheats, and connivers. What were they hustling, cheating at, and conniving against? Welfare. Every spare moment seemed to be trying to figure out a way to shake just a few more dollars out of the money tree or convert in-kind generosity into cash. None of this surprises me.