"America is a passionate idea or it is nothing. America is a human brotherhood or it is chaos."
- Max Lerner

House Study Committee on Welfare Fraud

study committee photo

Georgia House of Representatives

House Study Committee on Welfare Fraud

Members of the Committee

Representative David Clark, Chairman

Representative Mandi Ballinger

Representative Timothy Barr

Representative Dominic LaRiccia

Representative Erica Thomas

Staff

Matt Wosotowsky

Policy Analyst, House Budget and Research Office

Paul Higbee

Office of Legislative Counsel

Introduction and Hearings

During the 2015 Legislative Session, HR 829 was adopted creating the House Study

Committee on Welfare Fraud. The committee was tasked with studying the myriad of

conditions, needs, issues, and problems regarding Georgia welfare programs to determine

what, if any, statutory changes could be made to improve and maintain effective and

efficient programs that will promote effective stewardship of tax payers’ dollars, reduce

the amount of fraud, and improve enforcement. Those findings and recommendations are

to be reported to the Speaker of the House.

A total of 4 meetings were scheduled over the course of the committee’s study. The first

meeting was held on Thursday, September 17th, at the Coverdell Legislative Office

Building room 606. Chairman Clark opened the meeting citing his intent that the

committee find bipartisan solutions to the epidemic of those taking advantage of the

welfare system and that those individuals engaging in fraud are stealing from the

vulnerable in our society which need help most. Subsequent to the Chairman’s opening

remarks, the committee heard testimony from the following: Jonathan Duttweiler, with

the Department of Community Health; Elizabeth Brooks with the Department of Human

Services; Ashley Fielding and Maurice Ingram with the Department of Family and

Children Services; and Josh Archambault with the Pioneer Institute and the Foundation

for Government Accountability. The purpose of the meeting was for appropriate

government agencies, along with a national think tank, to provide an overview of the

current state of welfare programs in Georgia, common issues and challenges that those

agencies face, and any steps currently being implemented by those agencies regarding

issues with welfare programs.

The second meeting was held on Wednesday, October 14th, at the Coverdell legislative

Office Building room 606. The committee heard testimony from the following: Trey

Harrison with LexisNexis; Andrew Brown with the Foundation for Government

Accountability; and Logan Pike with The Heartland Institute. The purpose of the

meeting was to provide information regarding 3rd party databases and analytics

specifically tailored to cut down the amount of fraud and abuse in Georgia’s welfare

programs. Moreover, the committee heard testimony as to what has been implemented in

other states attempting to prevent welfare fraud and the effectiveness of those programs.

The third meeting was held on Thursday, November 19th, at the Coverdell Legislative

Office Building room 506. The Chairman reiterated that the purpose of the committee

was to find noncontroversial common sense solutions to the problem of welfare fraud.

Subsequent to the remarks of the Chairman, the committee heard testimony from the

following: John Anderson with the Georgia Division of Child and Family Services;

Kenneth Hutcherson with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia; Roy Lenardson

with the Foundation for Government Accountability; Wayne Drummond with the

Georgia Professional Human Services Association; and Bill McGahan with Georgia

Works. The purpose of the meeting was to give the committee an overview of both the

SNAP and TANF programs and more depth regarding services offered by state agencies

and the steps those agencies are taking to reduce welfare fraud going forward. The

committee also heard testimony regarding welfare fraud prosecutions and suggestions for

updating the code for ease of use for prosecutors. Moreover, the committee heard

testimony of non-governmental programs aimed at reducing homelessness and assisting

individuals in extracting themselves from dependence on welfare programs.

The fourth and final meeting was held on Thursday, December 10th, in the Coverdell

Legislative Office Building room 606. The committee heard testimony from the

following: Brian Laurens with Deliotte; Quan Green, a citizen speaking about the effects

of growing up on welfare; Jim Purvis, a citizen speaking about welfare fraud; and Clint

Furman with Maximus. The purpose of the meeting was to hear from the public, 3rd party

data analysis companies with experience in other states, and to discuss possible

committee recommendations.

It should be noted that during the hearings, the committee took a wider view of “welfare”

or social services to include many means-tested programs over and above the TANF

program that is mostly commonly called welfare. Discussion most frequently touched on

programs such as SNAP and Medicaid.

Findings of the Committee

Reform is needed to protect resources in Georgia for those truly in need

The committee is dedicated to reforming Georgia’s welfare programs to make sure they

are sustainable long-term and reserve assistance for those truly in need. Yet the findings

of this committee raise serious concerns about the amount of waste, fraud and abuse in

Georgia. While Georgia has made some good progress in administering its welfare

program, much more is possible and needed. Every additional dollar wasted results in

fewer dollars for education, infrastructure, tax cuts, or any other public priority.

Wasted resources have also resulted in harm to the most vulnerable. For example,

Georgia has a waiting list of roughly 11,000 individuals for home and community-based

services, including those with an intellectual and/or developmental disability, the aged

and disabled, and those with traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.

Some of the most troubling findings by the committee were identified in national

research on how big the problem of waste, fraud and abuse are in many of these welfare

programs. For example, a 2012 study estimated that fraud and abuse in the Medicaid and

Medicare programs run as high as $98 billion a year. Another example in Medicaid was a

recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that found 10,000

individuals concurrently receiving Medicaid in two or more states at different ends of the

country, in only five states audited.

It is for these reasons, and others, that the GAO designates Medicaid, states’ largest

welfare program, as high risk because it is “particularly vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse

and improper payments” and has inadequate oversight to prevent wasteful spending.

Even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates an improper

payment rate of nearly 10 percent.

The vastness of the problems identified in the research literature, as well as, testimony by

Georgia citizens before the committee, lead the committee to believe that there is much

work to do in Georgia. According to a recent survey by Governing Magazine, of 150

state and local government leaders, 67 percent surveyed were concerned or very

concerned about fraud in their agency. Yet most did not have adequate plans in place to

proactively detect and monitor for fraud using 21st century tools. The committee spent

considerable time learning about some of the tools that exist and how they have been

utilized in other states.

State Agencies

The Committee was impressed with the dedication of the state workers that they heard

from, but did have questions related to policy decisions of how programs are set up, and

gaps that exist in how programs are currently run. The Committee would like to explore

giving additional tools to some of the departments to more effectively run their

operations, and some policy changes that are needed to move Georgia forward

economically.

SNAP

As presented by the Department of Family and Children Services (“DFCS”), the

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP), also known as the Food Stamp

Program, is a federally funded program (with the administrative cost split with the state

50-50) that provides monthly benefits to low-income households to help pay for the cost

of food which is operated under federal guidelines. A household may be one person

living alone, a family, or several unrelated individuals who live and purchase food

together. Any household may apply for SNAP benefits and the program is intended to

serve households experiencing temporary crisis as well as households whose net income

is at or below the poverty level. The application for assistance is made to the DFCS

office located in the county where the applicant resides. There is a DFCS office in every

county within Georgia. Benefits are issued using an Electronic Benefit Transfer card

(“EBT”) with a monthly total allotment. Households may receive SNAP benefits for up

to one year before reauthorization. Food stores which are authorized by the Food and

Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) may accept

EBT transactions to purchase food. SNAP benefits are not allowed to purchase alcoholic

beverages, tobacco products, household supplies, or any non-food item.

In fiscal year 2015, SNAP was granted to 1,825,185 Georgians (just under 20 percent of

the state population). The highest number of SNAP beneficiaries in Georgia occurred in

2013 with an enrollment of 1,957,341. The income limits for issuance of SNAP benefits

for a household of one is 130 percent of the federal poverty line, with a maximum

allotment of $194 per month for an individual and $649 per month for a family of four.

The SNAP benefits paid to Georgia residents cost taxpayers $2.85 billion. Troublingly,

in 2013 69.4 percent of Georgia households on SNAP reported no earned income of any

kind.

SNAP, being a federally funded program, has yearly performance reviews of state

administration conducted by the USDA Food and Nutrition Services (“FNS”). FNS

measures the performance by assessing two distinct areas of the SNAP program to judge

whether a state is in compliance, the quality and the timeliness of cases.

“Quality”, as defined by FNS, uses a review of a random sample of active cases

investigating whether those households are receiving the correct amount of benefits is

used to determine a state’s “error rate.” If a state’s error rate is at 5 percent, the state

receives a warning letter from the federal government. If a state’s error rate is at 6

percent, the state will receive a warning letter stating the liability amount the state must

pay based on the error rate. Currently, Georgia is out of compliance. For FY 2013 and

FY 2014, the error rates were 5.11 percent and 6.49 percent respectively.

“Timeliness”, as defined by FNS, is processing cases in 30 days for standard cases, and in

5 days for expedited cases. Processing a case means that cases are either approved or

denied. The standard for SNAP timeliness is 95 percent. Currently, Georgia is out of

compliance. For FY 2013, and FY 2014, the timeliness rates were 79 percent and 66

percent respectively. Under the corrective action plan instituted by DFCS, the goal is to

reach 80 percent at the next measurement, followed by 95 percent the subsequent year.

Seventy-five million in federal funds will be lost unless Georgia comes back into

compliance. Moreover, performance must be improved per the terms of a class action

lawsuit settlement. The committee was interested to learn if lower enrollment numbers

could help in meet this goal more quickly.

The explanation for Georgia falling out of compliance is attributed to, in large part, the

increase of case files per worker during the recent recession, and the waiver of a work

requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents, which caused a backlog in the

system. In FY 2007, the average case file per worker was 357 and has increased in a

linear fashion to FY 2015 where the average case file per worker is 904. DFCS has

instituted a corrective action plan, noted above, converting their practice model from a

conveyor line approach to a One Family/One Worker model which will increase

efficiency and bring Georgia back into compliance.

An area of concern for the committee is the lack of a work requirement for all Able-

Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) enrolled on SNAP. An ABAWD is a

person between the ages of 18-49, mentally and physically fit for employment, with no

dependent, not responsible for an incapacitated household member, whom is not

pregnant. ABAWD eligibility for SNAP is limited to any 3 months in a 36 month period

unless the individual meets an ABAWD work requirement. ABAWDs must participate

in an approved education and training program, or demonstrate that they work at least 20

hours per week to continue to receive benefits. However, Georgia has been under a

statewide waiver which exempts ABAWDs from the 3 month time limit on receiving

SNAP benefits. Effective January 1, 2016, only those areas that have an unemployment

rate above the national average, or a ABAWD population too small to justify the cost of

service will be exempt going forward. As of July 2015, of the 1.8 million recipients of

SNAP benefits, approximately 126,519 are ABAWDs (7 percent of the total SNAP

beneficiaries). In other states that have re-implemented a work requirement, those that

have cycled off have, on average, experienced wage increases of over 100 percent in the

first year, pulling them out-of-poverty. (See recommendations section for more detail)

This year, DFCS was awarded a federal grant in the sum of $15 million for a new

initiative aimed at helping Georgians who are underemployed or unemployed to find

sustainable jobs to reduce their need for SNAP called SNAP WORKS 2.0. Beginning

January 1, the grant is to provide services over and above ABAWD requirements and

covers 10 metropolitan Georgia counties for 3 years. Utilizing the grant period allows

the agency to launch the new Integrated Eligibility System in 2016 and address the

current performance issues related to quality and timeliness of benefit delivery. While

the grant offers a renewed opportunity to focus on work, many of the committee

members were concerned about the policy decision to exempt so many ABAWDs from

any work requirement.

Georgia leading on detecting fraud in SNAP: National Accuracy Clearinghouse

(NAC)

On a positive note, the committee had the privilege of learning about a cutting edge pilot

program that Georgia participates in called the NAC (National Accuracy Clearinghouse)

which helps to prevent dual participation in the SNAP program among five states in the

Southeast. The committee was informed that this program has identified roughly 10,000

dually enrolled individuals in the five states sharing data, including 3,400 in Georgia,

saving almost $180,000 a month for taxpayers. The early results of this pilot are

encouraging, but also point to the meaningful level of waste and abuse that remains

undetected.

TANF

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (“TANF”), often referred to as welfare cash

assistance, is the monthly cash assistance program for low income families with children

under the age of 18.

During one hearing the committee received testimony from a representative from the

Heartland Institute, a national non-partisan think tank that recently released a report card

on TANF in which Georgia received an F for its TANF policies. The report card based its

grading on an examination of work requirements, cash division programs, service

integration, time limits, and sanction policies.

TANF is time limited to 48 months in Georgia, but can be extended to 60 months. The

state of Arizona has recently received federal authority for a 12 month lifetime limit, and

states as diverse as Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho and Indiana all have limits under 30

months.

In order to be determined eligible to receive TANF benefits, a child under 18 must reside

in the home and must be deprived of the care of at least one parent due to a variety of

reasons. There is a work requirement for adults who are able to work and receive TANF.

While Georgia had a respectable 67.5 percent of participants working in 2010, the state

has seen a steady decline down to 64.5 percent in 2012.

Most of the recipients of TANF are children in the foster care system, with no work

requirement. Of the approximately 19,000 households receiving TANF, 15,000 are single

children. In 2014, TANF benefits totaled more than $40.4 million and a monthly average

of 2,848 TANF recipients receiving employment services.

Enforcement

As presented by the Georgia Department of Human Services (“DHS”), Georgia is

recognized nationally for its aggressiveness in seeking out and establishing fraud claims

relating to SNAP. The DHS Office of Inspector General provides oversight to ensure

that DHS work is conducted according to state and federal laws, policy, procedure, and

practice. The Benefits Recovery Unit (“BRU”) of the Office of Inspector General

investigates suspected intentional program violations in the SNAP, TANF, and child care

programs. Benefit recipients, SNAP and TANF, who are found guilty of an intentional

program violation are suspended, then permanently disqualified from the program on a

three-strikes-you’re-out policy. Moreover, the unit also investigates retailer trafficking of

SNAP EBT cards. The BRU works with the United States Department of Agriculture

Food and Nutrition Service to investigate EBT trafficking at retail locations. The USDA

retains exclusive authority for investigating retailer fraud, while the state is responsible

for investigating recipient fraud. While there have been successes in catching retailer

fraud in Georgia, not having a robust state role in this process has led to fewer fraud

investigations than would be expected for such a large program.

Once an authorized SNAP retailer has been identified for engaging in EBT trafficking,

the state reviews all transactions to identify specific benefit recipients who were engaged

in trafficking with the retailer. Once identified, the state initiates an adjudication process

to hold recipients accountable for violating the program. Regarding SNAP, in 2014 there

were 2,572 established claims, both non EBT trafficking and EBT trafficking, for

intentional violations valued at $11.5 million. Regarding TANF, in 2014 there were 96

claims for intentional violations valued at $150,040.

The committee discussed efforts in other states to understand where EBT benefits are

accessed. This included efforts in Maine to analyze out-of-state spending, including

millions spent in the Disney World area of Florida. Maine has also tracked spending instate

at facilities like strip-clubs and casinos, and cut off access to ATMs in these

facilities. Finally, the committee also learned about growing worries about EBT cards

being used as currency as part of the drug trade, and the role that photos can play as a

deterrent.

As presented by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia (“PAC”), the welfare

fraud prosecution program in Georgia started in 1984 and was terminated in 2012. There

were no welfare fraud prosecutions for three years until PAC instituted a new welfare

fraud prosecution program. Under the new system, DHS investigators develop cases of

suspected fraud involving the SNAP program, and then forward the files to PAC

electronically. Contained within the file at the time of transmission are all necessary

supporting documents. PAC makes predicate determination of “fitness for prosecution”

and subsequently notifies DHS of the decision within 10 days of receiving the file. If

PAC does not recommend prosecution, the case is routed to the Georgia Office of State

Administrative Hearings. Once a case is determined to be prosecutable, the file is

electronically forwarded to the appropriate jurisdiction using the software from

Laserfiche. The local prosecuting authority then handles the file in the usual course of

business with all decisions on charges, dispositions, negotiations, and etc. handled in that

jurisdiction. Final dispositions are sent to DHS. If the local jurisdiction is unable to

handle the welfare fraud case, the prosecution of the case can be referred to PAC. For

Pac to accept the case, the alleged fraudulent activity must total over $5,000 and must

include SNAP fraud. Any case less than $5,000 are handled administratively. In the last

six months, PAC has processed approximately 200 cases in 37 different Judicial Circuits,

with the total value of the fraud in excess of $2.28 million and the highest instance of

fraud being $38,660.

To aid prosecutors and to add consistency in the code, PAC suggests that the General

Assembly move O.C.G.A § 49-4-15, fraud in obtaining public assistance, to Title 16,

chapter 8, offenses involving theft or create a new statute in that chapter. Or, similarly,

move O.C.G.A § 49-4-15 to Title 16, chapter 19, forgery and fraudulent practices statutes

or create a new statute in that chapter. Moreover, the current language of the statute only

deals with “food stamp coupons”, the language should be updated to capture electronic

fund transfers.

Third-Party Data Analytics to Detect Fraud

Over the last decade, the Government Accountability Office has released numerous

studies highlighting gaps in eligibility processes and ongoing monitoring of eligibility at

the state level, especially in state Medicaid programs.

The committee heard from a number of private sector third-party vendors of services

implemented in other states. Services include both enhanced eligibility services on the

“front-end” and risk scores to make sure that only the truly eligible are enrolled, but also

“back-end” data analytics to identify trends that could indicate fraud and waste.

The committee learned that historically anti-fraud efforts have not focused on front-end

enrollee enhanced screening, but instead operated on a “pay-and-chase” model of trying

to recover benefits that should not have been paid.

In light of Georgia moving to managed care in its Medicaid program, making sure that

only the proper enrollees are enrolled is of paramount importance. For example, if an

individual moves out-of-state a couple months into the year, but fails to alert the state of

that life change, the state will continue to pay for coverage for that individual. Georgia

needs to utilize tools to more frequently monitor eligibility of current enrollees to prevent

wasting valuable resources.

Research by the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) has documented how

widespread state-level eligibility issues are in everyday program management. A very

recent example comes from an eligibility check in Arkansas, a much smaller state than

Georgia, in which 43,000 Medicaid enrollees were identified that did not have home

addresses in the state. Many had addresses hundreds, or thousands, of miles away from

Arkansas. Alarmingly 7,000 of these individuals appear to have never lived in the state.

The report also found hundreds of deceased enrollees in the program, including many

who had signed up two years or more after they had died.

The Georgia Study Committee on Welfare Fraud was encouraged to learn about a proven

initiative of enhanced eligibility verification that conducts a better check of eligibility

upon enrollment, and checks more regularly for changes in life circumstance that might

impact eligibility.

In Pennsylvania and Illinois, welfare agencies use enhanced data-matching technology to

verify characteristics such as: income, residency, identity, employment, citizenship status,

and many other criteria for all applicants and existing enrollees. Those found ineligible

by this process were kept off of or removed from the program.

According to research published by the FGA:

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW) launched its Enterprise

Program Integrity initiative in 2011. In its first 10 months of operation, the state

identified more than 160,000 ineligible individuals who were receiving benefits,

including individuals who were in prison and even millionaire lottery winners.

This resulted in nearly $300 million in taxpayer savings in the first 10 months.

In January 2013, Illinois followed Pennsylvania’s lead and began its own program

integrity initiative. The state hired an independent third-party vendor to verify

income, residency, and other criteria of all new applicants and the state’s existing

2.7 million Medicaid enrollees.

During the first year of operation, Illinois’ independent vendor identified

eligibility errors in half of the cases it had reviewed. A delayed program launch

and early contract challenges by the state’s public employee unions resulted in the

vendor being unable to review all the cases it intended to complete. By the end of

the first year, the state had removed roughly 300,000 individuals from the

program as a result of the initiative. In the second year, the state removed an

additional 400,000 individuals. State officials projected that the enhanced

program integrity initiative would save taxpayers $350 million per year. Based on

the results of the second year, taxpayers can expect to save between $390 million

and $430 million per year, with greater savings accumulating over time as the

state moves more enrollees into managed care plans.

The success of these initiatives has not gone unnoticed as states as diverse as Kansas,

Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi and Missouri are exploring, or in the process of

implementing, a similar improvement.

The New Integrated System

The committee was informed about the newly designed integrated welfare eligibility

system(Georgia Gateway) by multiple state workers. While the new systems will

undoubtedly bring meaningful added functionality to Georgia, outside experts cautioned

that in other states these systems have been slow to be fully operational, and still do not

dig as deep to conduct enhanced eligibility checks and monitoring other the reforms used

in these states.

For example, the committee was informed about the gaps that exist in the data sources

that Georgia uses, and will use, in the Georgia Gateway, to check eligibility. For instance,

the state often fails to check, and does not have access to, many out-of-state data sources

of relevance that could impact eligibility. While some national federal data is used for

eligibility, those data sources are not real-time, and require exact name matches, so are of

limited value.

In addition, there has been some concern that the Georgia could become more of a

“poverty portal” that leads to greater dependency as it encourages enrollees to sign up for

many forms of assistance, instead of those which they are most in need.

Committee Recommendations

The committee has been focused on reforming Georgia’s welfare system for three

reasons: to protect resources for the truly needy, to free as many current enrollees as

possible from dependency to independence, and to steward every taxpayer dollar

regardless if it is state or federal.

While many welfare policy decisions are made deep inside State agencies, it is important

from time to time for the legislature to discuss and suggest reforms that are needed or to

codify current practices to ensure a clear direction forward in the state.

What is clear from the study committee process is that the state of Georgia needs to do a

better job of utilizing resources to prevent waste, fraud and abuse on the front-end of

eligibility checks. While Georgia may be having some success under the “pay-and-chase”

model, the state needs to learn from the success of other states and tackle this issue from

numerous angles.

Finally, the state needs to a much better job of making sure that individuals that are

ineligible are removed as soon as they are no longer eligible. Every dollar wasted, is one

less dollar for the truly needy and does not help ensure that safety-net programs are

sustainable in the long-term.

With those goals in mind the committee recommends reforms that include but are not

limited to:

1. Work requirement for all able-bodied childless adults in Georgia.

From 2001-2013, Georgia experienced an incredible 1221 percent increase in

the number of childless adult households on the SNAP program. Georgia is

operating under a partial-waiver from the federal work requirement for this

able-bodied childless adult population.

Yet, Georgia is now an outlier compared to many of its area neighbors that

have/ will have full state work requirements including Florida, Louisiana,

Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee next year.

The committee learned that research has found that one of the strongest

indicators of the work success of children in the future is the labor market

participation of adults in the neighborhood that they grow up in. The deep

concern is that our welfare programs are paying many people not to work, not

only setting themselves up for a dim future, but also harming the chance of

success for children around them.

Many committee members did find it inconsistent that Georgia requires work

from many single parents on TANF, but waives the requirement for many

without kids that are able-bodied.

Recent research on the impact in Kansas of the effect of work requirements

resulted in average incomes increasing 127 percent in the first year for those

that cycled off the program– pulling them out of poverty. It also resulted in a

tripling of the work rate by those remaining on the program. In states that

have implemented work requirements, work participation rates have often

been higher in high unemployment areas when compared to lower

unemployment counties.

2. Identify more fraud with enhanced eligibility and redetermination

screening. Georgia should partner with a third-party vendor to fill any gaps in

the data the state is checking for eligibility and redeterminations to run robust

eligibility checks on its welfare programs. This will allow states to reserve

scarce resources for the truly needy by removing fraudsters from the rolls.

3. Photos on EBT cards.

Following the example of states such as Maine, Massachusetts, and Missouri.

Georgia should place photos of the enrollee on their card, to decrease the

likelihood they can be stolen and trafficked, or sold for illegal or prohibited

purposes.

4. Regularly crosscheck lottery winners with welfare enrollees.

The committee learned about efforts in other states to better monitor life

changes, including winnings from the state lottery. Policymakers should

endorse the practice of at least monthly information sharing of individuals that

have won at least $1,000 between the lottery and all welfare agencies. An

eligibility redetermination should be conducted if appropriate.

As an illustration, recent media coverage from Maine found that in the last

four years welfare recipients in the state have won over $22 million in the

state lottery, including eight jackpots worth at least $500,000.

5. Expand the list of prohibited locations that EBT/EPC cards cannot be

used.

Georgia prohibits EBT/ EPC (electronic payment card) from being accepted at

tobacco retailers, tattoo/piercing parlors, firearms retailers, spa/massage

parlors, cruise ships, bail bond agencies, and psychic readers. Based on the

practice of other states, Georgia should expand that list and regularly remind

enrollees of the prohibition.

Upon enrollment, Georgia should present applicants with a clear list of

prohibited purchases which should be expanded to include: imitation liquor or

liquor, gambling activities, lotteries, concert tickets, travel services provided

by a travel agent, and money transmission to locations abroad.

The cards should not be usable at gambling facilities, liquor stores, jewelry

stories, vapor and tobacco specialty stores, theme parks, or retail

establishments that provide adult-oriented entertainment like strip clubs.

Georgia should prohibit these businesses from having ATMs that accept EBT

cards and businesses found in violation should be subject to licensing actions.

Enrollees violating these provisions should face a warning and

disqualification of benefits of up to three months for the first offense. The

second offense should result in the permanent termination of benefits.

6. Preserve food stamps for the truly needy.

Georgia should enforce the federal asset limit to preserve benefits for the truly

needy. Not checking for assets on SNAP has allowed millionaires and lottery

winners to qualify for food stamps, diverting limited resources away from the

truly needy.

Without an asset test, these individuals have remained on SNAP. Research

indicates that as many as four million people are receiving food stamps

despite having resources above the federal limit.

7. Share all enrollee disenrollment information between welfare agencies.

Agencies frequently share enrollment information when an individual signs up

for one program to see if they qualify for other programs, but rarely is this

process followed in reverse. In order to cut down on waste and fraud, agencies

administering means-tested benefits should share disenrollment information

with each other.

8. Eliminate SNAP benefits for those not stepping forward to care for their

children through child support.

Individuals that are not taking responsibility to support their own kids need to

receive the clear message that taxpayers won’t continue to sponsor their

lifestyle until they make the right decision by their kids.

9. Marriage encouraging welfare policies.

Recent research has shown that a combination of TANF policies appear to

increase marriage rates among some enrollees: a full-family sanction that

cancels or closes cases for non-compliance on TANF, a work requirement that

only exempts parents from work if they have children under the age of 12

months, a benefit structure that does not increase with each new child, and a

shorter lifetime limits. Georgia has a couple of these policies already, but

needs to shorten its time limit, strengthen its sanction policies, and make sure

benefits do not continue to rise after each birth of an additional child.

10. Reduce time limits on TANF.

In order to encourage marriage, and prevent long-term dependence Georgia

should consider shortening its lifetime limit to 12 or 24 months. This will

focus the agency on job placement as quickly as possible, instead of letting

individuals linger for 4 years or more on the program.

11. Clear rules for TANF program participation.

Georgia reduces benefits only 25 percent for the first instance of noncompliance

with the work requirement by single-parent adults.

TANF benefits should only start when an individual signs an agreement that

clearly states what is expected of the enrollee, explains under what

circumstances they would be sanctioned, and details potential penalties for

noncompliance.

Georgia should also require individuals to be compliant with all other program

requirements, including work requirements, before receiving benefits. Georgia

should also institute a full household sanction (equal to the entire benefits) for

the first instance of non-compliance. Benefits should not be reinstated

without a review of the sanction rules. Upon the second instance of noncompliance,

benefits should be terminated.

Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina

all impose a full household sanction, with many closing the case for the first

instance of non-compliance. Georgia is an outlier in the Southeast with its

sanction policies.

12. Clear rules for SNAP program participation.

Georgia should set disqualification periods of three months for the first case of

non-compliance, six months for the second infraction, one year for the third

case of non-compliance, and permanent disqualification for the fourth

occurrence. The sanction should apply to the entire benefit.

13. Reporting to monitor dependence.

The committee learned that data that shows how long individuals remain on

welfare programs, how many programs they are enrolled in, and whether the

programs provide duplicative services is hard to obtain. The outcome is that

Georgia policymakers must make important policy decisions with incomplete

information. As a result, Georgia welfare agencies should produce an annual

report that shows the length and concurrent enrollment of different eligibility

groups so policymakers and state workers alike can identify trends and areas

of dependency.

14. Change process for EBT replacement cards.

The committee learned about concerns with trafficking of cards in other states.

In order to reduce the likelihood of this, states like Wisconsin have

implemented changes that trigger a letter to be sent to individuals upon the

request of their third replacement card. The fourth request for a replacement

card in a 12 month period will trigger a face-to-face interview with a case

worker and fraud investigator. This policy reform resulted in a 70 percent

decrease in the number of requests for a fourth replacement card. This change

will help to save more resources for the truly needy, and cut down on waste,

fraud, and abuse.

15. PAC Code recommendations.

Likewise the Committee supports moving of the welfare abuse section to the

criminal code section. Not only will that aid in the consistency of the code,

but this will send a powerful statement to those that would seek to defraud the

state that welfare fraud will be prosecuted as a criminal offense.

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“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
– Ronald Reagan

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