I want to take this week to reveal the truth about welfare in Minnesota. In August of 2008,Minnesota House Republicans called for an audit and hearings on the subject of out of state welfare spending. The reason for the audit was the discovery that millions of Minnesota's welfare dollars were being spent in states other than Minnesota, through the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Many are not familiar with the EBT card. It is the current form of welfare payment that used to be known as food stamps. Years ago, welfare benefits collectors would receive their allotted amount of food stamps, which looked similar to fake money. It could be used at grocery stores and the like to purchase food for struggling families, and other necessities, such as diapers, formula, and personal hygiene items. Some years back, it was decided that the EBT system would provide a more efficient and less conspicuous way for welfare recipients to use their benefits. The EBT system works similar to a debit card in your checking account: If you've got money in your account, you swipe your EBT card at the cash register, and pay for whatever it is that you're buying.
Now, at first glance, using an EBT card out of state may not seem like such a big deal. I mean, really, who cares if welfare recipients spend their assistance here or in Wisconsin, right?
But there are some very serious flaws in Minnesota's welfare system that make it a VERY big deal. First, these cards can be used anywhere: not just the grocery store or your local discount chain, but also at liquor stores. They can be used to buy cigarettes, lottery tickets, beer, or, you can go to an ATM and just cash out, free to spend your money at the local casino, or to buy street drugs of your choice.
There is also no requirement to show ID when using an EBT card, which leaves them wide open for theft, sending to relatives in other states, or selling on the black market. These things can and do happen.
"There is a financial responsibility on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being abused." said Representative Laura Brod (R-Dist. 25A). "The welfare system in Minnesota is growing exponentially and receiving a great share of the state's budget. We want to take care of families in need, but also ensure that no one is abusing the system for their own financial gain at the expense of Minnesota families struggling to pay their own bills." Brod continued.
Representative Marty Seifert (R-Dist. 21A) said "Government must be held accountable for fiscal responsibility, particularly in cases of fraud or misuse of taxpayer dollars."
Minnesota EBT cards are being used in ALL 50 states, from Alaska to Hawaii. Why is Minnesota welfare money being spent all of the country?
This session, several attempts to bring reform to our vulnerable welfare system were brought forward, and the majority party never even allowed them to be brought to the table. This is completely baffling to me. These cards should be used for necessities. We need to ensure that Minnesota's vulnerable children have the food, diapers and formula that they need, and that our taxpayer dollars are not spent on potentially destructive items such as gambling, tobacco, or alcohol. This could easily be accomplished through simple changes to our welfare system.
Personally, I would work toward the goal of eliminating welfare fraud, and ensuring that welfare is a temporary help and not a lifelong program. We need to help people learn how to care for themselves. I am not talking here about the permanently disabled, or the elderly who cannot care for themselves, but for the many smart and able-bodied Minnesotans who are caught in the difficult to escape trap of the Minnesota Welfare system.
On Monday, April 27, the Democratic majority House passed the HHS Spending Bill-HF 1362. Rather than working on balancing our budget and stop-leaking our ever-growing deficit, the Majority party increased the budget for welfare by 2.2 billion dollars-up 20.47 percent!
For more information on the welfare bill go to www.mnhousegop.com Click on Health & Welfare