Tennessee legislation cracks down on welfare fraud

posted at 6:41 pm on February 11, 2016 by Kristina Ribali

Two key legislators and a broad coalition of representatives in Tennessee are fed up with the rampant welfare fraud in the Volunteer state. They’ve submitted legislation to protect those who truly need the support from the thieves and fraudsters that seek to take from the most vulnerable.

Senators Kerry Roberts and Representative Dan Howell, have filed the “Act to Restore Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone,” which aims to save the state more than $123 million each year by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse in the state’s welfare programs.

“We want to make sure that money is available to people who need it most,” said Roberts, who noted that Tennessee spends more proportionally than any other state on welfare programs. “According to the Census Bureau about one in four state dollars go into welfare programs.”

At a press conference announcing the effort, Senator Howell said, “We see this as a moral issue in Tennessee. Taxpayers should know where their hard-earned dollars are going.” The lawmakers noted that efforts to crack down on improper use of welfare funds have saved money in states like Illinois and Massachusetts.

Senator Kerry Roberts and Rep. Dan Howell of Tennessee addressing the press regarding their sponsorship of the "Act to Restore Hope, Opportunity, and Prosperity for Everyone" legislation.

Senator Kerry Roberts and Rep. Dan Howell of Tennessee addressing the press regarding their sponsorship of the “Act to Restore Hope, Opportunity, and Prosperity for Everyone” legislation.

The goal of the legislation is not to keep welfare out of the hands of those who deserve it, but to ensure that fraudsters, cheats and thieves don’t waste the state’s welfare funds and jeopardize the benefits for everyone.

The Act to Restore HOPE has several key elements.

The first component is a strong verification program that can be used to ensure that, as Senator Howell said, “Joe Schmo with two vacation homes and an Escalade” is not stealing welfare benefits while thousands of Volunteer State residents wait for the services they truly need.

The second key aspect of the legislation would track the purchases made by Tennessee residents receiving welfare benefits. The use of EBT cards for welfare spending has made the misuse of these funds a growing problem in many states across the country. The Senators outlined a number of places that welfare recipients would be restricted from using their funds including, video game arcades, movie theaters, massage and tattoo parlors, theme parks, travel and cruise services, and “sexually oriented businesses.”

The final section of the legislation gives new authority and new tools to the state to identify and prosecute people taking advantage of the state’s generous welfare system.

Senator Roberts told a crowd of reporters that, in the course of crafting their legislation they discovered that they have not given the DHS “the resources to identify” welfare fraudsters or root them out. “This will help deter future fraud and preserve those resources,” Roberts said.

He stressed the goal of the legislation, “What this legislation does not do is take welfare away from people who deserve it and who are entitled to it.”

Other states have implemented similar reforms containing these components, with great success – stressing that embracing modern technology and increasing prosecution of law-breakers can help curb welfare fraud and keep room in the budget for those who rely on the state’s helping hand.

___

Kristina Ribali is the Senior Coalitions Director for the Foundation for Government Accountability. Follow Kristina on Twitter and Facebook for the latest on welfare and health care reform.


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Comments

And that and no income tax is why I love my state!

melle1228 on February 11, 2016 at 6:46 PM

“What this legislation does not do is take welfare away from people who deserve it and who are entitled to it.”

Who “deserves” welfare … or the fruit of someone else’s labor?

Secondly, who the hell is entitled to it?

darwin on February 11, 2016 at 6:48 PM

Ah hell, now all those deadbeats are going to move to California where welfare fraud is a way of life.

antipc on February 11, 2016 at 6:48 PM

Senators Kerry Roberts and Representative Dan Howell, have filed the “Act to Restore Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone,” which aims to save the state more than $123 million each year by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse in the state’s welfare programs.

Jeebus, nothing like accepting the unicorn language of The Left.

Why not call it the “Act to Crack Down on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in State Welfare Programs”?

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 6:48 PM

It would be interesting to know the amount illegal immigrants in the Volunteer State add to the welfare costs.

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 6:49 PM

darwin on February 11, 2016 at 6:48 PM

Baby steps.

It would be interesting to know the amount illegal immigrants in the Volunteer State add to the welfare costs.

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 6:49 PM

It would be interesting to find that out for every state.

I wonder why they won’t do that?

cozmo on February 11, 2016 at 6:53 PM

Jeebus, nothing like accepting the unicorn language of The Left.

Why not call it the “Act to Crack Down on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in State Welfare Programs”?

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 6:48 PM

Good catch. That’s hysterical.

darwin on February 11, 2016 at 6:53 PM

The second key aspect of the legislation would track the purchases made by Tennessee residents receiving welfare benefits.

Cue leftist outrage.

rbj on February 11, 2016 at 6:54 PM

Here we go again looking for crimes in all the wrong places.

Welfare on the scale of “subsidies” given out by government is peanuts

weedisgood on February 11, 2016 at 6:56 PM

It would also be interesting to know how much the illegal population costs the state in medical care. Went to the county health office a few years ago and quickly figured out English was a second language there…

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 6:59 PM

Here we go again looking for crimes in all the wrong places.

Welfare on the scale of “subsidies” given out by government is peanuts

weedisgood on February 11, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Why am I not surprised you have a problem with them trying to reel in fraud.

The Notorious G.O.P on February 11, 2016 at 6:59 PM

“entitled to it” Right there is the problem

Constitutionalist on February 11, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Here we go again looking for crimes in all the wrong places.

Welfare on the scale of “subsidies” given out by government is peanuts

weedisgood on February 11, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Entitlement fraud runs into the hundreds of billions annually. It’s not peanuts.

darwin on February 11, 2016 at 7:00 PM

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 6:59 PM

Could be worse. I don’t think it has been in the top five around here for a while.

cozmo on February 11, 2016 at 7:01 PM

30 years ago, working as a cashier at Jewel/Osco in Chicago I would have welfare recipients come through my line daily.

Most customers using WIC vouchers would select national brands (much more expensive) instead of the store brand in cheese, milk & cereal, etc., while I had to buy generic.

During the day, men would come through with one piece of bulk candy, which would weigh out to 1 cent. I would then have to give them their change from a $1 food stamp. This went on over and over again. I then pulled my register key to complain to management. I was told this was legal and to MYOB. These men would then go into Osco and purchase beer with the change.

I was a single Mom supporting three kids working three jobs and have never taken one cent from the government.

The abuse disgusts me.

Jason58 on February 11, 2016 at 7:04 PM

The second key aspect of the legislation would track the purchases made by Tennessee residents receiving welfare benefits.

Cue leftist outrage.

rbj on February 11, 2016 at 6:54 PM

I congratulate both Tennessee and Maine for addressing what needs to be done.

I know for a fact that both Indiana and Ohio have some serious fraud issues with their Welfare payments. We go to one Casino in Indiana and one in Cincinnati and both of them have permanent signs mounted on the ATM machines stating that it is unlawful to use Welfare/EBT cards to get cash from those machines. That right there tells me that those two States systems are broken and they need to fix them.

Johnnyreb on February 11, 2016 at 7:04 PM

It would be interesting to know the amount illegal immigrants in the Volunteer State add to the welfare costs.

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 6:49 PM

From a FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) study in 2007 (probably twice as bad now): Analysis based on an estimated 100,000 illegal alien population residing in Tennessee indicates that they cost the state’s taxpayers more than $285 million per year for education, medical care and incarceration.

Here was the California study (2014): $25.3 billion for an estimated 3 million illegals (a yearly burden of about $2,370 for a household headed by a U.S. citizen)

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:05 PM

The Senators outlined a number of places that welfare recipients would be restricted from using their funds including, video game arcades, movie theaters, massage and tattoo parlors, theme parks, travel and cruise services, and “sexually oriented businesses.

Jeebus – you mean they aren’t already? WTH?

Hill60 on February 11, 2016 at 7:07 PM

Senators Kerry Roberts and Representative Dan Howell, have filed the “Act to Restore Hope, Opportunity and Prosperity for Everyone,” which aims to save the state more than $123 million each year by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse in the state’s welfare programs.

It’s a fine idea, but I’d like to see how much is going to be spent on the venture on a cost to benefit ratio.

whatcat on February 11, 2016 at 7:07 PM

cozmo on February 11, 2016 at 7:01 PM

Middle Tennessee is a high density area for illegals, as the nurseries hire them for cheap labor. One result is that there are more Mexican restaurants than you can count, and more opening all the time…

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 7:07 PM

From a FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) study in 2007 (probably twice as bad now): Analysis based on an estimated 100,000 illegal alien population residing in Tennessee indicates that they cost the state’s taxpayers more than $285 million per year for education, medical care and incarceration.

Here was the California study (2014): $25.3 billion for an estimated 3 million illegals (a yearly burden of about $2,370 for a household headed by a U.S. citizen)

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:05 PM

That money would offset the cost of one one huge wall!!! I wonder if anyone out there has thought of something like that…

dominigan on February 11, 2016 at 7:08 PM

The second key aspect of the legislation would track the purchases made by Tennessee residents receiving welfare benefits. The use of EBT cards for welfare spending has made the misuse of these funds a growing problem in many states across the country.

Can recipients use the EBT card to make cash withdrawals? If so, it would be hard to track how/where the money is spent.

whatcat on February 11, 2016 at 7:09 PM

I’m waiting to hear when they’re going to crack down on corporate welfare. Something that actually costs the state hundreds of millions. I guess I’ll be waiting a long time.

proverbs427 on February 11, 2016 at 7:12 PM

Got a bird sanctuary near here, where an ornithologist goes through and flips cowbird eggs out of the songbird nests a couple of times every year.
Sounds kind of similar.

S. D. on February 11, 2016 at 7:13 PM

One result is that there are more Mexican restaurants than you can count, and more opening all the time…

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 7:07 PM

That’s an upside. Try some.

Though I’m not a fan of Salvadoran sea food.

cozmo on February 11, 2016 at 7:13 PM

It would also be interesting to know how much the illegal population costs the state in medical care. Went to the county health office a few years ago and quickly figured out English was a second language there…

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 6:59 PM

Before I self-exiled from Southern CA three years ago, a majority of emergency rooms in Los Angeles County had already been closed because they had been turned into full-time, unprofitable healthcare centers for illegals who were required by law to be treated for any and every thing (citizens would have to wait hours to be seen).

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:14 PM

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:05 PM

dominigan on February 11, 2016 at 7:08 PM

If there was an honest news business in this country that wasn’t in the bag for the illegals and big business, the amount these people cost each state and the federal government would be published routinely.

When you look at how much they send back to their home countries, without paying any taxes, is a major net loss for the USA while they sponge all they can get from American tax payers. Saw somewhere today that if Trump is elected, there might be a way to collect on these transactions to build a wall…

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 7:16 PM

Wish I could afford a swanky Nashville condo…

Fallon on February 11, 2016 at 7:18 PM

That’s an upside. Try some.

Though I’m not a fan of Salvadoran sea food.

cozmo on February 11, 2016 at 7:13 PM

We do on occasion. I can’t figure out how Taco Bell stays in business…

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 7:20 PM

All welfare at all levels of government should be abolished. This would force the frauds to get off the Xbox and get any type of job. If you don’t work, you don’t eat. The truly needy would get help from private, business, and religious charities.

We would save billions of dollars right off the bat, and the savings would be compounded by safer communities.

Brian in Titletown on February 11, 2016 at 7:25 PM

The trash along side east Tennessee highways is out of control. No respect.

losarkos on February 11, 2016 at 7:26 PM

Welfare on the scale of “subsidies” given out by government is peanuts

weedisgood on February 11, 2016 at 6:56 PM

…quityerbitchin subsidy slut!

JugEarsButtHurt on February 11, 2016 at 7:30 PM

The trash along side east Tennessee highways is out of control. No respect.

losarkos on February 11, 2016 at 7:26 PM

It’s not just east Tennessee… And you are right, no respect. Too many born and raised in a barn to care about where they throw their trash. Probably wondering where and when they can get their next meth fix.

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 7:30 PM

Welfare on the scale of “subsidies” given out by government is peanuts

weedisgood on February 11, 2016 at 6:56 PM

Because weed defines “subsidies” as any money the government isn’t allowed to steal.

SDN on February 11, 2016 at 7:33 PM

I agree with cracking down on public welfare fraud but it always amazes me how the sheep follow right along when the corporate welfare hurts the states coffers way more! From the article I mean..stopping Joe schmo with the 2 houses and the escalade is all well and good but in the big scheme of things..You stopping his 350.00 a month benefits while the corporation down the street from him gets 350,000.00 in welfare benefits isn’t really making much of a dent is it?

“The current tally: $623 million for a new convention center. $70 million for a new Sounds stadium. $182 million to the Omni Hotel. $5.8 million to Gaylord Entertainment Co. $6 million to LifePoint Hospitals. $12.5 million to a downtown tower developer. $66 million to HCA. And, most recently, another $56.3 million to Bridgestone. All in a city that just had its credit rating downgraded and purportedly can’t afford sidewalks.

Make no mistake: If such gargantuan welfare checks had been written to Nashville’s poorest citizens — rather than its most affluent corporations —Republicans would be screaming bloody murder.”

http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/01/16/nashvilles-corporate-welfare-habit-will-harm-city/21867997/

Politricks on February 11, 2016 at 7:40 PM

It’s just hard for me to take claims of welfare reform seriously when you have examples like the one I posted above occuring with out any type of outcry.

Politricks on February 11, 2016 at 7:41 PM

Politricks on February 11, 2016 at 7:40 PM

Nashville and the rest of the state are two different worlds. Nashville is run by liberals while the state is run by conservatives (at least they think they are).

The tax benefits for large manufacturing corporations are job producers which in turn is additional revenue. Tennessee has benefitted from automotive manufacturers relocating to Tennessee from the rust belt and overseas.

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 7:51 PM

“What this legislation does not do is take welfare away from people who deserve it and who are entitled to it.”

Who “deserves” welfare … or the fruit of someone else’s labor?

Secondly, who the hell is entitled to it?

darwin on February 11, 2016 at 6:48 PM

Obama say everyone is entitled.

Obama and Hillary and Schumer and Ried and Bush 1.0 and 2.0 and Al the Goracle, and Code Pink and BLM, Planned Parenthood, Chamber of Commerce, The Federal Reserve, the Congressional Black Caucus (can’t have a Hispanic, White or Asian Caucus – only a Black Caucus), The Clintons, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Malcolm X, Louis Farrahkaaan, Academia, micro aggression, macro aggressions, perceived insulting speech of any kind… – These are the people who have instituted Mob Rule for the last 10 years.

Americans of all stripes are sick and tired of this farking Clown Show that has become our “Government”that seems to be run by NOBODY, other than the sniveling, grifters that make up “our” 535 “members” of our Legislature.

535 A holes cannot have that much power over 300M Americans – illegals are not counted.

We’re scroomed and I pray that SMOD will win this Election

Stop them.

Key West Reader on February 11, 2016 at 7:55 PM

It’s just hard for me to take claims of welfare reform seriously when you have examples like the one I posted above occuring with out any type of outcry.

Politricks on February 11, 2016 at 7:41 PM

Are you aware that the welfare state is primarily responsible for having created an exponentially-increasing $200+ trillion national debt?

America’s National Debt Bomb Caused By The Welfare State

No, of course not.

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:59 PM

Notice that they make a dumb statement about keeping folks with a house and 2 cars from receiving welfare but have they actually found that to have happened? And how?

Also they claim that they must keep welfare funds from being used wrongly. Isn’t that an indication that they just gave money to welfare recipients? I don’t know how their welfare works but most states have some sort of process where they directly pay welfare recipients creditors (gas, electric, rent etc) I’ve never understood why they give out cash. So it’s good they’ll stop that.

They say they’ll save 200 million. How large is the welfare budget? If it’s large enough, then 200 mill is a drop in the bucket and also how much will all this verification and enforcement cost the taxpayers on top of the welfare amount? Doesn’t say.

And finally the real kicker and probably the real reason; they want to give their DHS MORE intrusive authority into checking someone and that just may entail giving up information about those who DON’T receive welfare.

Lots of questions here but I don’t hear anyone else asking them.

jake1246 on February 11, 2016 at 8:18 PM

Key West Reader on February 11, 2016 at 7:55 PM

Actually, there is a Congressional Hispanic Caucus and an Asian Pacific American Caucus. No reason there couldn’t be a White Caucus. Why don’t you lobby your Congress critter?

cam2 on February 11, 2016 at 8:26 PM

Illegals are killing us in East Tennessee. On the first day of school this year, my nephew was one of two students in his home room to speak English. He’s in 7th grade. Several of them will use the same Social Security number. Employees call and report it and the Feds do nothing.

Big Orange on February 11, 2016 at 9:20 PM

Before I self-exiled from Southern CA three years ago, a majority of emergency rooms in Los Angeles County had already been closed because they had been turned into full-time, unprofitable healthcare centers for illegals who were required by law to be treated for any and every thing (citizens would have to wait hours to be seen).

ShainS on February 11, 2016 at 7:14 PM

If there was an honest news business in this country that wasn’t in the bag for the illegals and big business, the amount these people cost each state and the federal government would be published routinely.

When you look at how much they send back to their home countries, without paying any taxes, is a major net loss for the USA while they sponge all they can get from American tax payers. Saw somewhere today that if Trump is elected, there might be a way to collect on these transactions to build a wall…

Irish Stout on February 11, 2016 at 7:16 PM

Illegals are killing us in East Tennessee. On the first day of school this year, my nephew was one of two students in his home room to speak English. He’s in 7th grade. Several of them will use the same Social Security number. Employees call and report it and the Feds do nothing.

Big Orange on February 11, 2016 at 9:20 PM

And they wonder why Trump…..

AesopFan on February 11, 2016 at 10:20 PM

Politricks on February 11, 2016 at 7:40 PM

Why aren’t these blatantly off topic “commenters” getting the ban hammer?

Rules for thee but not for me?

runawayyyy on February 12, 2016 at 9:12 AM