We’ve all heard the expression: “home is where the heart is.” For most of us, this sentiment rings true. A home provides a sense of security and shelter. But, times are tough, and not everyone is able
to afford housing to meet these needs. That’s where public housing programs come in. Public housing programs provide subsidized rental assistance through Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. Like all public assistance programs, the applicant must meet certain eligibility criteria and disclose additional assistance they are receiving through other benefits programs. Unfortunately, some cheat the system and lie by failing to disclose additional benefits. And, that’s the case in today’s Fraud of the Day from turnto10.com.
The article describes the results of a Rhode Island human services report on food stamp fraud and waste, which found that residents of a local housing authority were “gaming the system.” (I can’t imagine anyone in Rhode Island running a scam.) So, what exactly were they doing? “The report found, among other things, that more than one-third of…housing residents that get Section 8 housing assistance are either under-reporting or not reporting their food stamps benefits” as required. In addition, the report found “dead people and prison inmates getting food stamp benefits” and their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards were “actively being used at stores.” (Wonder how the cards made their way into circulation? Can’t imagine anything nefarious taking place from prison.)
You might be thinking, “Okay, it’s food stamps – how much are we really talking about here?” Well, the report found the fraud cost taxpayers $2 million. (Sounds like real money to me.) How could your agency spend $2 million?
As in all instances of fraud, the question is: how do we stop it? If under-reporting or failing to report the food stamps benefits is how the fraud is being committed, it seems like the problem could be caught at the time of eligibility determination or re-determination. And, if people are lying about receiving food stamps benefits, what other benefits are they receiving and failing to disclose? So, here’s my question for you: what steps would you recommend putting in place to verify the applicant’s eligibility?