Legislative auditor cites mismanagement in food assist. program - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Legislative auditor cites mismanagement in food assistance program

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New Orleans, La. -

Fraud, overpayments, and even felons getting benefits are just some of the findings in a new legislative audit of the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The audit spotlighted the Department of Children and Family Services' management of the program, recommending better ways to protect taxpayer dollars. 

"They cut me off. It's been going on a month now," said former recipient Michael Delay. His benefits stopped when he got a job.  "I went to a store and had $200 worth of groceries and I had to put things back because food stamps was off."

Delay understands that's how the system works, but a recent audit suggests it's not always that cut and dried.

"I'm not surprised people take advantage of the system all the time," said one man downtown, "That's the world we are living in."

The Department of Child and Family Services admitted to the legislative auditor that it made errors. More than 1,000 cases totaled at least $841,000 in overpaid benefits in 2010 and 2011

The auditor found more problems. More than 300 SNAP participants making more than $50,000 in 2012 received about $750,000 in benefits during the same timeframe. And close to 2,000 people locked up in jails statewide still got benefits from the program in 2011 and 2012, to the tune of more than $1 million, according to the audit.

"I see customers who have been in jail a couple of months, they come out they have a couple of hundred dollars stacked on their card." said Crescent City Market owner Jamal Esmeil.

"When I can't work I can go to the store, buy me a sandwich and buy me some meat or something to eat," said SNAP recipient Emory Johnson.

Another man downtown said the food stamp program is one of the better things we do with our tax money. Now, the auditor charges the Department of Children and Family Services to make sure it's all being used to serve the public good. 

DCFS Secretary Suzie Sonnier released a statement, saying her department is reviewing all the cases cited in the report for potential fraud and will work with authorities to prosecute those who have purposely tried to defraud the system.

Sonnier added she will forward any cases involving retailers to the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service.

You can read the legislative auditor's full report on SNAP by clicking this link.

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