HHS Announces New Partnership with Law Enforcement to Help Prevent Sale of EBT Prohibited Items
Partnership gives local law enforcement new tools; enhances program integrity and data sharing
BOSTON — Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz today announced a new partnership with statewide law enforcement associations to increase data sharing, while giving local police the tools they needs to ensure that clients and retailers are abiding by the law. The announcement builds on the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) 100 day Bridge to Stability action plan announced last month and helps protect benefits for clients who truly need them.
The new partnership includes the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association (MCOPA) and the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs Association (MMCC).
“We’re giving local law enforcement the data and information they need to ensure that clients and retailers are abiding by the law,” said Secretary Polanowicz. “This partnership is an important step forward for DTA, and it will help us protect benefits for those who need them as a bridge to stability during tough times.”
Secretary Polanowicz was joined by Chelsea Police Chief and Vice President of the MMCC, Brian Kyes, Everett Police Chief Steven Mazzie, DTA Interim Commissioner Stacey Monahan, and DTA program integrity personnel at the State House Steps today for the announcement.
As part of the 100 day action plan, DTA has launched bi-weekly monitoring of ATM and point of sale withdrawals to identify any purchases made at prohibited establishments. DTA staff members are monitoring where transactions are located and visiting potentially prohibited establishments, such as stores that sell liquor. Under the new agreement, the Department will share this data with local law enforcement so they can investigate and prevent the sale of prohibited items and the use of EBT cards at prohibited establishments.
“The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association are pleased to partner with the Department of Transitional Assistance to ensure that clients and retailers are abiding by the law,” said Chief Wayne Sampson, executive director of the MCOPA. “Our participation will help provide the DTA with the necessary evidence to take action against those who intentionally violate the law.”
DTA is also working in collaboration with MCOPA, MMCC, and other law enforcement in cities and towns throughout Massachusetts on trainings on the EBT restrictions signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick last year. The law prohibits the use of cash assistance at certain locations and for certain items.
The partnership builds off DTA’s 100 day action plan, which was launched last month to enhance program integrity, restore public trust in DTA’s critical programs, and improve services for clients.
To date, DTA has notified more than 78,000 cash clients and approximately 22,000 individual retail establishments through 38 vendor associations, outlining the prohibited items, establishments and penalties for restricted purchases listed under the law.
DTA is in the process of implementing the blockage of ATM and Point Of Sale transactions for cash assistance clients at prohibited establishments and that is expected to be completed by October 2013.
DTA began charging cash clients a $5 fee for replacement EBT cards in December 2012. In total, more than $22,000 has been collected through the end of March 2013 and preliminary research shows a reduction of 28 percent in card replacements during that time. USDA has also granted DTA approval to charge SNAP clients a replacement fee and DTA will be implementing this charge in the coming weeks.
The 100 day plan incorporates established best practices, brings increased oversight and training to the Department, and moves forward with technological enhancements to address issues raised by the offices of the Inspector General, the State Auditor and federal regulators. The plan also takes proactive steps to prevent fraud and abuse, block EBT card usage at prohibited establishments and increase investigation and enforcement of SNAP trafficking.
DTA has also launched statewide Bridge to Stability listening sessions, to gain public input on strengthening client services.
DTA serves one in eight people in the Commonwealth and ensures that the emergency and transitional needs of the individuals and families are met through federal-and state-funded benefits, such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance and cash assistance.
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