It has been discovered that New York welfare recipients are using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to purchase groceries and then ship them in giant barrels for relatives in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti, according to an exclusive report by the New York Post.
Experts say that the practice is quite common and has been performed for quite some time now. It is also rather ubiquitous because those taking part in the scam are using hundreds of 45-gallon cardboard and plastic barrels that line the walls of a significant number of supermarkets in the Caribbean regions of New York. These cost about $40 and are usually filled with as little as $500 to as much as $2,000 worth of canned milk, rice, pasta and much more.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service say the food stamps program is to help American families in need, but noted that states should intervene if there is evidence showing people are shipping food abroad.
There are more than 47.5 million recipients (as of Apr. 2013) and is costing the taxpayer roughly $6.2 billion every month to sustain it, according to SNAP data. Meanwhile, the U.S. government spent more than $500 million in foreign aid to the Caribbean in the last fiscal year.
One official for the Cato Institute argues that this is just another example of welfare abuse. “I don’t want food-stamp police to see what people do with their rice and beans, but it’s wrong,” said Michael Tanner in an interview with the news outlet. “The purpose of this program is to help Americans who don’t have enough to eat. This is not intended as a form of foreign aid.”
This isn’t the first time that a scam regarding food stamps has been reported.
In April, it was discovered that a pair of convenience store owners in the state of Florida purchased EBT cards at a low price from customers and then used those cards to stock their own shelves. The Department of Agriculture found that more than 1,400 stores were involved in the cash for food stamp cards last year.
Two months later, an owner of four dollar stores in New Jersey was arrested for allowing his customers to acquire electronics with their food stamps. The purchases totaled about $5.2 million and occurred for nearly three years.
Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions issued an open letter that calls for the end of the food stamp “madness.” His letter also questions the relationship with Mexican consulates to encourage migrant workers, non-citizen immigrants and foreign nationals to apply for food stamps and other welfare benefits provided by the USDA.
Since President Obama entered office, the federal government has been running advertising campaigns encouraging residents to apply for food stamp benefits, while local and state governments could even receive bonuses from the federal government for swiftly processing applications.
Many are upset that the U.S. is funding a program that helps those who are able to feed themselves and at a time when the government is nearly $17 trillion in debt. In addition, it is even offering food stamps to those who don’t qualify and instead are filed under the “broad-based” eligibility criteria.
Is it time to end food stamps in America?