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Missouri Audit Alleges Misuse of EBT Cards By Some Welfare Recipients

(via Flickr/clementine gallot)

A new audit released Tuesday finds that some welfare recipients in Missouri have used their benefits to buy things besides food and other daily necessities, while others may have moved away but continue to get in-state benefits.

The audit centers on the use of EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, a federal program administered on the state level in all 50 states.  Missouri Auditor TomSchweichsaid during fiscal year 2012, around $261,000 in benefits were spent at businesses associated with gambling, alcohol, tobacco and adult entertainment.

"That seems inconsistent with the purpose of the program, to provide benefits to kids," Schweich said.

Missouri passed a state law earlier this year banning EBT cards from being used at such places.

The audit also found people in other states accessed around $461,000 in Missouri benefits for periods of time longer than 90 days, which may indicate that they've moved away.

"There were some rather egregious ones," Schweich, a Republican, said.  "We had somebody who spent 153 days in the Virgin Islands and was still getting (Missouri) benefits, (and) we had somebody who had spent 338 days during one year in California and was still getting (Missouri) benefits....Those are questionable transactions that need to be investigated further."

It's not illegal for Missouri residents to use their EBT cards while visiting other states, but Schweich says those that have moved away need to register in their new home state.  The audit examined $96 million in benefits paid out through the use of EBT cards from July 1st, 2011, through June 30th, 2012.

While Schweich said that the amounts involved -- $461,000 and $261,000 -- make up less than 1 percent of the total value of the (TANF) program," he said that "because it's such a big program, it's still a lot of money."

The entire audit can be viewed here.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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