Statement from Auditor Bump on Senate Ways and Means' Proposed FY2013 Budget
I applaud Senate President Therese Murray and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer for including in their FY 2013 budget an outside section that would criminalize food stamp trafficking in the Commonwealth. It will give our Bureau of Special Investigations and others in law enforcement a new tool to directly address some of the most egregious examples of welfare fraud – those in which food stamp benefits intended to provide nourishment to needy families, particularly children, are sold in order to use the proceeds for other purposes.
Massachusetts’ lack of criminal penalties for food stamp trafficking has hindered our effective tracking and prosecution of this activity, which seems to be growing within the state. Nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, the illegal buying or selling of food stamps has resulted in 597 convictions and $197 million in fines, restitution and forfeiture orders over the past three years. The new legislation makes it easier for state and local authorities to more effectively monitor, investigate, and prosecute violators and provide for penalties for this type of crime. Additionally, I am pleased to see the further guidance on the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards, which will work to ensure that all public benefits go to those most deserving. I commend Senate President Murray and Chairman Brewer for their proactive leadership on these important issues.