Stop food stamp program fraud

It should not require a formal agreement for the federal government to cooperate with states in reducing food stamp fraud, but apparently it does.

Straight from the it’s about time more is being done department, federal officials announced this week that Ohio has become one of the first states in the nation to be part of a new program to curb crime in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly known as food stamps. Under the arrangement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state will share data that will help the state monitor food stamp transactions and detect fraud. Gasp, maybe they can even curtail those who swap food stamps for some kind of cash rate to use the money on stuff they can’t buy with food stamps. That has been such a blatant practice for years it’s would be laughable if not so egregious.

About 1 percent of the $80 billion spent nationwide on the program is lost to fraud, federal officials estimate. That is down from 14 percent just a few years ago – and the lower estimate certainly is suspect.

More than 1.8 million Ohioans receive food stamp aid, dispensed through “swipe” cards. The program costs more than $2.4 billion a year in the Buckeye State alone.

The stance here has always been if there is a legitimate case for a citizen, especially those with children, to benefit short-term from government assistance, then we endorse that. As long as the need is there and as long as the assistance is temporary. If someone dutifully paid taxes and, because of job loss or illness – i.e. through no fault of there own -suddenly finds themselves in a bad way, then they deserve our help. But that is where it should end. Our country has become enough of a nanny state as it is.

Just a year ago, state Auditor Dave Yost warned of abuse in the food stamp program. Yost said one scam involves obtaining a food stamp card, using or selling it, then seeking another one by claiming the original was lost. As many as 17,000 Ohio food stamp clients received 10 or more “reissued” cards during the previous year, he said. That is pathetic.

Clearly, curbing food stamp fraud is in taxpayers’ best interests. Ohio state officials should use this new data-sharing opportunity to stop at least some of it and file criminal charges against those responsible.