Except for those on the far left whose denials have become cliché, it is well-known among the rest of us how rampant fraud and abuse is in both the food stamps and the cash benefit portions of the welfare programs issued via the welfare EBT cards. Steve Robinson has done some great work, exposing fraud and abuse in the Maine welfare programs, in his online publication The Maine Wire. His recent article in The Maine Wire highlights some of the spin coming from the fraud-deniers of the far left about abuse and fraud in the welfare programs and the complexity of determining just which cash expenditure is abusive or not.
For instance, Robinson gives an example of someone buying junk food and soda with the food stamps benefit of EBT and then spending the cash benefit of the EBT card on cigarettes. Now clearly, most sensible thinking folks don't think providing food benefits for the low income is for them to buy junk food and the cash benefits are certainly not intended to be spent on a pack of smokes.
And then some of the arguments are just absurd. Robinson writes, “A liberal advocate from Maine Equal Justice Partners has claimed that cash welfare withdrawn from a liquor store ATM was not necessarily spent on liquor.”
Are we supposed to believe that the cash was withdrawn at the liquor store so the beneficiary can then go across the street to the convenience store to by the skittles and Arizona iced tea? Yeah riiiiiiiiiiiight.
It's a little more clear what the food stamps (SNAP it's now called) benefit can be spend on, that has to be spend on food, the stuff we can actually eat. But the cash benefit can be spent on anything. What is the cash benefit, you ask? It's the part we've traditionally called “welfare.”
The cash benefit program of welfare is now called Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), the program that used to be called Aid to Families with Dependent Children. TANF benefits are deposited by the federal government to the recipients EBT cards and can be spend as cash or withdrawn at ATM machines just like the cash you earn and have deposited to your checking account and you spend using your checking account debit card. There are no restrictions on how TANF benefits are spent, because they can be withdrawn as cash.
The best way to make sure EBT cards are only used by the person they are issued to, is to turn the EBT card into a photo identification, like your drivers license, and require cashiers to card, and ask for another photo ID, all users of EBT cards. So if you're at the cash register fraudulently using someone else's EBT card, it will be clear you are when the cashier sees you don't even resemble the person on the card, nor can you provide a valid ID proving you are in fact that person. That's easy, and every state legislature should do that, and enact that reform, yesterday.
The other reform is even more simple, and sensible, although it would take federal legislation to do it, but it should be done too.
The best way to make sure there is zero waste, fraud, and abuse in the cash benefit portion of welfare, is to eliminate the cash welfare benefit and replace it with specifically allocated benefits that pay for those things which are true necessities. That's right, eliminate the cash benefit portion entirely. So welfare should provide non-transferable benefits that fund the following: food via SNAP benefits, housing via housing programs, programs to pay for electricity or fuel payments, etc. No cash. If welfare recipients want cash to buy booze and cigarettes, then they need to get a job to earn cash for those things.
Those two steps would immediately end most forms of welfare abuse and fraud. If a photo ID was needed to spend SNAP benefits, then one can't sell their SNAP card for someone else to use it. If there were no cash benefits to welfare, then they can't buy booze and cigarettes with welfare benefits. It's the simple. Reform it already.
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