Exclusive: $7,000+ Food Stamp Balance
Thu, 21 Feb 2013 02:36:18 GMT —
Food stamp abuse is a hot topic in the Rio Grande Valley.
Should there be a limit on how much tax payers dollars can be given to someone on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?
One valley man was outraged after finding out how much money some people on government assistance are getting.
Action 4 News uncovers just how many people are on SNAP in the Valley and how much money they are getting.
One man sought action after seeing what he calls abuse of the system happening every day.
A gas station clerk, who wants to conceal his identity over fears about losing his job, is fed up.
"Bob" as we're calling him rings up a customer paying with a Lone Star card.
"There are times I see customers come in and they've got thousands," Bob said.
The numbers he said, just don't add up.
The balance was more than $7,000 in tax payer funds.
"You would think that it would red flag in the system," Bob said.
Bob claims he got short changed when trying to report it.
He claims the local SNAP office told him they couldn't doing anything about it.
Action 4 News took up the issue with State Representative Terry Canales of Edinburg.
"I had never heard of this issue until you brought it to light," Canales said.
The freshman lawmaker said a $7,000 surplus is "Extremely concerning. Reaching these balances is obviously not in the best interest of the state and the people that have these balances its questionable as to whether they need the assistance," Canales said.
He supports SNAP for those who truly need it.
According to Bob, on an average day he sees about 10 different people all with over $2,000 in food stamps, who report to the government they cannot make ends meet.
"But they're driving Mercedes," Bob said.
It is totally allowable.
Canales told Action 4 News the balance will rollover indefinitely, as long as the account is being used.
According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, there are more than 238,000 people on SNAP in Hidalgo County, costing tax payers more than $28,000,000 dollars this month alone.
For Cameron County, 119,000 people are receiving assistance, at a $13,000,000 cost for February.
"Where's this going? What's wrong with this picture?" Canales asked.
Bob said it TMs too much.
After this Action 4 News investigation, the legislature is now taking action.
"The entire situation needs and warrants an investigation it warrants the state making modification as to how the program is run," Canales said.
Canales supports limiting the amount a person can have in their account.
He wants there to be a way to alert authorities when a recipient reaches a certain amount.
He's considering an audit on those accounts after our investigation.
According to HHSC, the average age of recipients in the Valley range in age from 5 to 59-years-old.
A family of four can get just under $700 per month in benefits.
To report SNAP fraud and abuse, call the Texas Workforce Solutions Hotline at 1-800-252-3642.