April 20, 2014

FoodShare audit raises concerns

A newly released audit shows nearly 450 prison inmates in the state have been able to collect FoodShare benefits while behind bars. The Legislative Audit Bureau report found inmates collected over $413,000 in benefits between when they were put behind bars and March of this year.

State Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake), who requested the audit, says that should not be happening. She says the state has the computer systems in place to cross-check inmates with FoodShare accounts, but it’s just not being done right now.

Kerkman is also concerned that over 1,600 people deemed ineligible for the food assistance program were still able to obtain benefits. In many cases, she says many of them were able to keep re-applying to the program until they were able to get in, despite having violations on their records.

Another aspect of the audit drawing attention from Kerkman is the large number of replacement cards that have been issued to participants. Over 107,000 groups involved in the program requested new cards, with 22 of those receiving ten or more. Kerkman says those cards are likely being sold. She thinks program should be investigated those cases after just a few requests for a replacement, along with charging a fee to reissue card.

The Department of Health Services, which administers FoodShare, says they are taking steps to improve fraud prevention. Part of that plan is to have computer systems set up by this summer that will allow them to spot people who have become ineligible for FoodShare because of criminal activity. Kerkman says those efforts should include better training for case workers on how to identify problems quickly, so the agency can follow up on cases where they suspect fraud might be in play.

FoodShare paid out over one billion dollars in benefits last year to more than one million Wisconsin residents.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:01)