S tate food assistance programs allow people on low incomes to eat healthy , quality food.
B ut some people are abusing the system and taking advantage of millions of tax payer dollars that should go to the needy.
P eople like mother of two Latisha Moore says, "times is hard out here. I mean all of the stuff out here is expensive now, so everything they can give us, I appreciate it."
T his program is meant for people like her, but Ohio like many other states suffers from chronic abuse and fraud of the food assistance program." I t is an issue, it is something that needs to be looked at. we take it very seriously here," explains Megan Hupp, with the Lucas County Department of Job and Family Services.
D espite the commitment to crack down on fraud, not everyone believes enough is being done, " I don't feel like they're doing enough because it's a lot of people out here that still selling the food stamps and using them in the wrong way," says EBT card user Jazmin Moore.
A ccording to the state, some of those wrong ways include small convenience store owners who buy the direction cards off of the folks who qualified for them, giving them for example $50.00 for the card. T hose retailers then go on a spending spree buying hundreds of dollars worth of items. M eanwhile the original card owner just calls the state claiming to have lost the card then asks for a replacement. T he state is investigating 15,000 retailers statewide, including 20 in Lucas County in 2012, up by five from 2011. P ast investigations have busted stores like the Pic and Go on Galena Street and Express Mart on Heatherdowns Boulevard.
T he Lucas County Department of Job and Family Services has investigators too. They look into activity such as, "out of state usage. the number of cards issuance and then we look at outside referrals," explains Hupp.
A ccording to the state one out of three kids in Lucas County relies on food assistance. A safety net compromised by fraud, "It's hard especially when you have a son. I'm only 18 so it's hard. it's easy to get food," says Jazmin Moore.
T he Lucas County Department of Job and Family services stands behind their commitment to preventing fraud, "it takes the services and the resources out of the families of Lucas County, who are in need of nutritional assistance," explains Hupp.
L ocal and state officials say the use of the direction card alone has reduced fraud since dumping the old food stamp. T he card is tracked electronically. In addition sting operations are conducted by state and local agencies. Retailers guilty of fraud are banned from accepting EBT cards and have to repay restitution. Individuals who qualify are also banned.
G ood news for people who rely on the system, "take their benefits from them and let them see how it is not to have it, because all of us need it," explains Latisha Moore.
I f you suspect or know someone who is abusing the system .. you're encouraged to contact the county at their website, http://www.co.lucas.oh.us/forms.aspx?fid=41.