The FBI has now indicted over 50 people on charges of food stamp fraud. The case marks the largest fraud case for the SNAP program. This will surely feed fuel to the fire for conservatives seeking to eliminate social social welfare programs.
In addition to the 54 people charged with funneling money, apparently another 34 people were charged with selling their benefits in exchange for cash. A south Macon store was also swept up in the case and apparently helped facilitate the whole scheme. It appears that a series of bogus stores were set up. People would then sell their SNAP cards for money, while the purchasers would use the bogus starts and have the cash reimbursed.
Apparently, many of the people who have been arrested and charged were actually canvassing neighborhoods and asking people to sell their food stamps in exchange for money. Sellers can receive as much as 50 cents on the dollar for selling their food stamps. Charges of the mail and wire fraud conspiracy carry up to a 20 year jail term.
Will Food stamps come under fire?
Food stamps are meant to help out people in need. Set up to ensure that people are able to access basic levels of food, food stamps are among the American government’s most widely used social safety nets. Now, in a ground breaking case the FBI is charging fifty four individuals with stealing millions of dollars worth of food stamps.
Food Stamps, or the so-called SNAP program, provides 47 million Americans with access to food. The maximum benefits for a family of four come in at $480 dollars. For an individual, the maximum benefits are less than $150 dollars. The government also provides WIC benefits for mothers, providing up to three months worth of extra food benefits.
The program has long been the target of Republicans and has already been targeted in numerous benefit cuts. For example, in October of 2013, SNAP provided nearly $670 dollars for a family of four before declining to $480 after demands by the Republican party. Following the most recent scandal, Republicans will likely target food stamps once again.
Already, some conservative blogs have launched an attack on the SNAP program. It is estimated that the type of food stamp fraud described above costs as much as $750 million dollars per year. Other estimates conclude that as much as 20 percent of recipients game the system to receive benefits that they do not deserve.
Of course, some people really do need access to food stamps, and many people need this access due to situations of misfortune. A sudden layoff, a sick family member, inability to find a job, and numerous other things can put people in a situation of need. The question for policy makers will come down to those who actually deserve and need the assistance, and those who are simply trying to game the system.