While the use of food stamps has grown since the economic crash of 2008, the amount of some types of fraud associated with it have gone down. According to a new study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, the instances of trafficking fraud have increased. However, the actual percentage of this particular type of fraud has dropped by four percent since the 1990’s.
The report focuses on trafficking, or when people who are willing to sell their supplemental benefits to food retailers for cash. Many are willing to do this at a discount in order to pocket the money for their own use. It is estimated just over ten percent of authorized stores that accept food stamps are willing to engage in this activity. These tend to be small, privately owned stores. According to the FDA, these stores account for 15 percent of food stamp use, but 85 percent of trafficking.
Trafficking does not increase the cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but it does defeat the purpose as it was put in place to help families purchase nutritious foods to add to their diet. Alcohol, cigarettes, non-food items, pet food and vitamins cannot be purchased with food stamps. For a complete list, click here.
Some states are attempting to control welfare benefit fraud with drug screenings. The State of Utah introduced testing for recipients last year. So far, testing from June 2012 through July 2013 has cost the state more than $30,000 and netted 12 drug users. Utah pre-screened 4,730 applicants and administered 466 tests. Similar results were found in Florida in 2011 with only 2.6 percent testing positive. However, Utah’s drug testing law differs from Florida’s as it utilizes a screening process, not blanket testing.
Utah legislator Brad Wilson-R, Kaysville maintains the state saved $369,000 because 247 of those applying for benefits refused to be tested after being confronted about possible drug use and dropped out of the program.
Similar legislation faces a legal battle over the possibility that laws that require drug testing are a violation of rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Southern Center for Human Rights have filed suit claiming, “Not only is it unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy, but it doesn’t save money, as was proposed.”
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Source: Food and Drug Administration, Deseret News, Huffington Post, New York Times, FindLaw.com