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Saturday, 06 February 2016 23:15

300,000 Floridians Face Loss of Food Aid Over Work ------Nationwide Total Over 1 Million Featured

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Unless they meet new work requirements that kick in later this month more than 1
million low-income residents in 21 states may lose their government EBT cards -
commonly known as food stamps - if they fail to meet work requirements that
began kicking in this month.

Since the “official” unemployment numbers have improved, the new rules in the federal
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were instituted to reduce
costs and provide incentive for recipients to go back to seek employment. But,
according to those who have worked closely with the poor, particularly social
service providers and food pantry workers, there is a fear the new regulations
will create a cadre of hungry people.

Their concerns are bolstered by recent studies in other states that concluded most of
those affected will probably not meet the work requirements and will lose their
EBT card/food stamps.

For a majority of recipients, "it means less food, less adequate nutrition. And over the span of time,
that can certainly have an impact on health — and the health care system,"
said Dave Krepcho, president and chief executive of the Second Harvest Food
Bank of Central Florida.

Advocates cite a host of obstacles, including criminal records, disabilities or lack of a
driver's license, that work against a lot of those currently getting assistance
when it comes to finding and keeping employment.

The work-for-food requirements were first enacted in a 1996 welfare reform law that
signed by President Bill Clinton and sponsored by then-Rep. John Kasich, who is
now Ohio's governor and a Republican candidate for president.

It is often noted that the “workfare” provision as it has been termed only to
able-bodied adults ages 18 through 49 who have no children or other dependents
in their home. It is often seen as biased against men since many women in this
age bracket have children. For anyone without the requisite dependents, the
regulation requires them to work, volunteer or attend education or job-training
courses at least 80 hours a month to receive an EBT card that can be used for
food. If they don't meet these requirements, their benefits are cut off after
three months.

According to The U.S. Department of Agriculture, waivers are available for these work
rules, either for entire states or certain counties and communities, “when
unemployment is high and jobs are scarce.”

Almost every state was granted a waiver to address the recession that began in 2008,
but for 21 states, waivers ended this month, representing the largest group to
losing waivers since the recession commenced.

An Associated Press analysis of food aid figures showed that “nearly 1.1 million
adults stand to lose their benefits in those 21 states if they do not get a job
or an exemption. That includes about 300,000 in Florida, 150,000 in Tennessee
and 110,000 in North Carolina. The three states account for such a big share
because they did not seek any further waivers for local communities.”

Meanwhile in Tennessee, a mother told investigative journalists that her 27-year-old deaf
son was recently denied disability payments and is now considered able-bodied. This
in turn means he may lose food aid, despite the fact her son suffer from
deafness that makes it hard for him to keep a job.

"I know there's going to be a lot of people in the county hurt by this," said
mother, Terry Work, founder of Helping Hands of Hickman County, a social
service agency in a community located about an hour west of Nashville.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, over 4.7 million food stamp
recipients across the US are designated able-bodied adults without dependents. Only
1 in 4 has any income from employment and they receive an average of $164 a
month in food assistance from the program.

Already many recipients have ended up losing their benefits in states where work
requirements have been implemented.

For example, Wisconsin started phasing in work requirements in April of 2014. As a
result, two-thirds of the 22,500 able-bodied adults who were covered by change
between April and June, were dropped from the rolls three months later for
failing to meet the requirements.

Infuriating some who work with the poor or disenfranchised is the fact that some states
could have applied for partial waivers from the requirements but didn’t pursue
that option.

Perhaps the strongest example of this occurred in North Carolina where the State government
passed a law last fall accelerating implementation of the work requirements and
actually barred the state from seeking waivers unless there a natural disaster
strikes and the Governor declares an emergency. One State Senator - Ralph Hise
said the state was fostering terminal unemployment by providing long-term food
aid and removing any incentive to work.

"People are developing gaps on their resumes, and it's actually making it harder for
individuals to ultimately find employment," said Hise, a Republican who is
from a rural section of western North Carolina.

In the “Show Me” state of Missouri, a GOP-led Legislature overrode Democratic Governor
Jay Nixon’s veto, to enact a law barring the state from waiving work
requirements until at least 2019. The three-month limits on benefits without meeting the work
requirements began Jan. 1 for approximately 60,000 people in Missouri, where
unemployment is now measured at 4.4 percent.

Great food stamp work requirement photo

"We were seeing a lot of people who were receiving food stamps who weren't even
trying to get a job," said the law's sponsor, Sen. David Sater, a
Republican whose Missouri district includes the tourism-based community of

"I know in my area you can find a temporary job for 20 hours (a week) fairly
easily. It just didn't seem right to me to have somebody doing nothing and
receiving food stamps,” elaborated Sater.

Still others maintain it is still difficult to find work, even with an ostensibly
improved economy.

Joe Heflin, 33, of Jefferson City, said he has been receiving food stamps for more
than five years, since an injury ended his steady job as an iron worker and led
to mental illness during his recovery. He said he gets nearly $200 a month in
food stamps and has no other income. Heflin was recently notified that his food
stamps could end if he doesn't get a job or a disability exemption.

"I think it's a crummy deal," Heflin said while waiting for assistance at a
free food pantry. "I think they ought to look into individuals more, or at
least hear them out. ... I depend on it, you know, to eat."

Mariana Chilton, who oversees Philadelphia’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities at
Drexel University, says that those make policy frequently "don't realize a
lot of the struggles those individuals are dealing with,” when they changed the

Issues she feels are often overlooked include trauma from military service, exposure
to violence and abuse and recent release from prison. These factors make employers
hesitant to hire them. Often what case-workers see as able-bodied suffer from physical
or mental problems, often incapacitating them from performing meaningful

Franklin County, Ohio, did a study of 4,145 food stamp recipients who became subject to
work requirements between December 2013 and February 2015 and found that more
than 30 percent claimed physical or mental limitations that affected their
ability to work. And 28 percent lacked a high school diploma or equivalency
degree, while 61 percent didn’t even have a driver's license.

"There should have been more thought on how we look at employment and not thinking
that people are sitting there, getting food stamps because they are lazy and
don't want to work," said Octavia Rainey, a community activist in Raleigh,
North Carolina.

Others take a different view. Bob Mackey, who works with the homeless says while he
has sympathy for their plight and that he volunteers to help people get off the
streets many of those who claim disabilities are alcohol or drug dependent.

“They make poor life choices and then when they get into the system it becomes a
further enabler of their underlying problems, they keep drinking or doing drugs
and sometimes trade their food benefits for them,” he said. “The answer, in my
opinion, is to get these people into treatment. It’s really a crisis in our
mental health system and lack of funding there that could make a difference,
the food stamps are secondary to addressing the underlying problems that make
this difficult sub-group almost help proof,” he added with obvious pain in his

While there are state programs to help food stamp recipients improve their job skills
and sometimes treatment is available, many time the only help available is in programs
run by nonprofit groups or by other state agencies. Finding these avenues of
help is often nearly impossible for the chronically unemployed due to lack of
motivation and their underlying infirmaries. Mackey says many of these programs
have funding and are “well-intentioned” but fail when it comes to getting
services to those who need them most.

“It strains incredulity to think that street people consumed with substance abuse
or mental health issues will make their way to these programs without guidance
and even then, many reject any form of help, yet these same people are the most
vocal when their food benefits are cut,” Mackey said.

And In Florida, food aid recipients received letters directing them to a state
website for information. Rainey said that these people lack any access to
computers or even the skills to use them if they did have them.


"A lot of these folks, they don't have computers, they don't have broadband
access," said Krepcho, the Central Florida food bank executive.
"That's ripe for people falling off the rolls."

Even little things like being placed on hold when they do call the state agencies
make it difficult for truly poor people. “They are using pre-paid calling cards
and sometimes they lack the minutes to sustain a hold and the call just ends,
breeding frustration and often no further follow-up,” added Rainey

So while the debate continues, 300,000 Floridians may soon be flooding food
pantries, churches and local charities like the Harry Chapin Food Bank to eat.


food stamp coupon with obama image

Editor’s Note: Meanwhile newspapers and broadcasters across America continue to

report of rampant fraud in the food aid programs. Below are several recent examples of these reports.
They provide another perspective that makes it seem like a great idea to cut
the SNAP program.

A Savannah woman has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $1
million in federal funds, joining five other defendants from Atlanta and
Decatur in admitting their roles in the scheme.

The Savannah Morning News reports that 37-year-old Litricia Allen pleaded
guilty Wednesday to taking part in a scheme that
netted more than $6 million in food stamps and nutrition-assistance benefits.

Allen and six Atlanta-area residents, including
her 57-year-old mother Jewell Allen, were charged in April in the scheme.

Jewell Allen of Atlanta and 41-year-old Petrina
Barge of Decatur also entered guilty pleas Wednesday to a conspiracy charge.
Earlier, 38-year-old Sabrina Sesberry and her 34-year-old husband Rupert Jones,
both of Atlanta, also entered guilty pleas in the case.

Prosecutors said the scheme occurred at 13
storefront operations from February 2009 to June 2011 in Savannah, Atlanta,
Augusta and other Georgia cities. Funds were stolen from the Supplemental
Assistance Program, formerly know as the Food Stamp Program and Georgia Women,
Infant and Children (WIC) program.


"Guilty plea in food-stamp fraud case'

"When undercover federal agents visited
Aunty Florence's West African Market in Darby in 2010, they found the owner
willing to illegally exchange food-stamp benefits for cash.

The feds became suspicious of Kingsley after she
sought monthly payment for authorized food-stamp sales greater than the annual
$80,000 estimate she gave in a 2008 application to participate in the program.

Visits to Kingsley's market by undercover agents
in 2010 confirmed Kingsley was willing to engage in bogus food-stamp
transactions, the plea memo said.

On June 29, 2010, Charmeka Parker, an agent with
the Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General, asked Kingsley if
she would give her cash in lieu of benefits stored on an
"agency-controlled" PaAccess card.

Kingsley gave Parker $120 cash in exchange for
$200 worth of food-stamp benefits, the plea memo said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Floyd Miller said
Kingsley bilked the government program - now called the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program - of more than $295,000 between 2008 and 2011.

It's been more than a year since it came to light
that Vincent Edward Deprince defrauded the food stamp program of more than a
million dollars. Well, Deprince couldn't have done it without more than a
hundred food stamp recipients who gave him access to their benefits.

So far, 127 people face criminal charges for
unauthorized use of food stamps, stemming from the illegal activities connected
to Deprince and the taco truck.

The food stamp recipients allegedly used their
cards to get cash and split it with the store. So now, District Attorney John
DeRosier says they face serious penalties and possible jail time.

"Several of them have pled guilty as charged
already. And we are requiring restitution in full for the amounts of money that
the cards represented. I'm sure some of them will do jail time. Perhaps some of
them who are true first offenders may not do jail time. These cases are going
to be handled just like any other criminal case," DeRosier said.

Those charged allegedly misused amounts ranging
from $1,000 to $9,000. DeRosier speaks for many taxpayers who are incensed at
the abuse of benefits.

"For the recipients of these cards to
exchange those for cash to buy different things that are not approved for, not
food, is very frustrating to that working class of people who work so hard to
support themselves and their families," DeRosier said.

The most recent batch of warrants was issued
against 23 defendants on July 11. Those charged are at varying stages in the
court system. Some have already been sentenced.

Five women, including three former Social
Security Administration employees, have been arrested in connection with what
prosecutors are calling a “complex welfare, childcare and medical benefits scheme,”
the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

Investigators said Sakeenah Belle, 31, Chanae
Thomas, 31, Felicia Fernandez, 30, Shonda Wayman, 30, and Abigail Millian, 38,
received SNAP, subsidized childcare and medical assistance benefits totaling
more than $76,000 between 2009 and early 2013.

Belle, Thomas and Fernandez, who were all
employed by the Social Security Administration, are accused of under-reporting
their annual incomes to fraudulently qualify for the benefits.

Wayman and Millian, who both worked at the
Reading Rainbow Learning Center in Northern Liberties, are charged with
conspiring with the other three women to continue receiving the fraudulent

The women allegedly used the fictitious
statements to gain eligibility or to remain eligible for the welfare benefits.

Prosecutors said financial documents indicate
that Belle, alone, fraudulently obtained $4,072 in SNAP, $2,805 in subsidized
childcare and $32,219 in medical assistance benefits between March 2009 and
December 2012.

And yet another scheme short-changing taxpayers.

Owners of a slew of Alabama
corner stores allegedly used food stamps they illegally bought to stock their
shelves with marked-up goods, Corner stores turned EBT cards into cash for
drugs, local, state and federal authorities — including
the FBI and Homeland Security — raided 11 stores in the Burmingham area and
arrested 17 people.


Not only did the unscrupulous store owners
allegedly profit from using Electronic Benefits Transfer cards — a
government-issued debit card that replaced food stamps — but those who sold
their cards at half their cost were pocketing cash to splurge on drugs,
cigarettes and booze, authorities say.

The government reloads money onto those EBT cards
monthly. "They're selling their cards to get those
things,'' Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Raulston said,
Alabama Media Group reports.

Four Charged In Welfare Fraud Scheme, Including Two Private Contract Employees

Four Indianapolis women have been charged by the
Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office with welfare fraud, including two employees
hired by the private contractor which administers Indiana's welfare programs,
ACS/Xerox, through a local minority-owned staffing company, CFA Staffing.
Leticia Falconer, an employee of CFA Staffing assigned to the SNAP program, is
facing 36 felony charges for falsifying documents to illegally collect nearly $80,000
in benefits for herself and about $20,000 in benefits for two others, Debera
Anderson and Asia Malone. Another employee of CFA Staffing, Laquisha Flowers,
is charged with nine felony counts, accused of falsifying documents to receive
$577 in SNAP benefits she wasn't entitled to receive.

An FSSA spokesman applauded FSSA's employees and
the Inspector General's office for alerting authorities of the alleged criminal
activity. "We are pleased that the FSSA workers did their job and reported
to the proper authorities," FSSA spokeswoman Marni Lemons said. The
defendants were arrested nearly a month ago. Falconer remains jailed, while the
other three defendants bonded out according to The Indianapolis Star. In a
highly-controversial move, the administration of former Gov. Mitch Daniels
initiated the privatization of Indiana's welfare services under the leadership
of then-FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob, a former executive with ACS/Xerox. IBM was
the original lead contractor but was forced out so ACS/Xerox could assume total
control, another costly move that has cost taxpayers tens of millions of
dollars in litigation expenses. CFA Staffing is owned by Teresa Carter of
Indianapolis. Three Texas employees were arrested a year ago in a similar
welfare fraud scheme where ACS/Xerox also administers the state's welfare

The amount of fraudulent money received by
Falconer under this scheme was $79,489.00. The total amount of fraudulent money
received by all four defendants was $101,872.00.

Carl Conley

{This report contains
originally written material, source quotes and compilations from public sources
including other newspapers and media sources and is
published as an educational aid for taxpayers.}

Read 41460 times Last modified on Saturday, 06 February 2016 23:52