Do you know that right now, you probably just purchased a pack of cigarettes, but what’s that, you don’t smoke? That’s okay though, a lot of people smoke when they drink, so they’ll go with the 6-pack you just bought. How did you do all of that from work? Good question. Perhaps this weekend you might want to have a little fun and place some bets at a tribal casino. There’s a catch though, you have no chance of winning. Oh well, nobody really expects to win, but you’re still having a good time, right? If things get a little crazy, maybe your friends can talk you into getting a tattoo.
If this doesn’t sound like you at all, you’re probably not alone. The fact is though, this just happened on your dime, and somebody else is reaping the benefits. How did all this happen you ask? The short answer is, welfare fraud. It is against the law to purchase products such as tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, and use them within certain establishments such as casinos. Yet it happens all too often.
Follow this link to see a Channel 5 KTSP Investigation into fraudulent charges made through Minnesota’s welfare system.
The Minnesota Family Investment Plan (MFIP) is Minnesota’s name for their cash assistance program that is aimed to help people back on a path of self-sufficiency by providing assistance in job hunting, while at the same time providing assistance to low-income families with one or more children. The money is deposited onto an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card each month and can be redeemed with cash back at a point of sale, or by using an ATM to withdrawal money from the card. This is what creates the problem. This money is then used by some to make purchases on items other than what the benefits are intended for, like providing proper nutrition for hungry children.
Abusing the cash assistance programs isn’t the only way to abuse the welfare system unfortunately. Food stamp benefits, which are also deposited onto an EBT card each month, continue to be a source for welfare fraud. Fraudulent redemption of food stamp benefits is a very serious crime where a few individuals can rack up some serious damage as is the case with the Twins Market and Meats in St. Paul.
If you’ve viewed the video from channel 5 by now, it may not be very comforting to know that EBT benefits are being redeemed in every state in the country, and in some U.S. territories. What’s even worse are the steps that have been taken to address the problem. Essentially people are on the honor system as of now until serious reforms can be made. However, there are strides being made to clean up the welfare system and rid of those who would seek to abuse it, and bring about the negative public image it has assumed for many years. Check out the Minnesota Department of Human Services report on preventing and eliminating welfare fraud.