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
Policy Analyst, House Budget and Research Office
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.