Some state lawmakers are demanding action after a Target 11 Investigation revealed a food stamp account with a balance of more than $12,000.
Target 11 investigator Rick Earle broke this story earlier this month and now he’s discovered that some local lawmakers have sent a letter to the Pennsylvania congressional delegation urging them to make changes to the program.
“When it came to our attention that someone had a $12,000 food stamp balance it was disturbing to say the least,” said State Representative David Reed, (R) Indiana, who sent the letter to members of congress and the Department of Agriculture, the federal agency that oversees the food stamp program.
Reed wrote, “We came across one of the most troubling examples of snap benefit misuse that any of us can recall.”
Target 11 exposed that “troubling example” in early November when investigative reporter Rick Earle obtained a grocery story receipt indicating that the person had more than $12,000 in their food stamp account.
“I have a family of five. I don’t think we spend $12,000 a year on groceries. That’s an awful lot of money to accumulate over a year. That’s a thousand dollars a month, which they obviously didn’t need,” Reed said.
At first we thought it was a mistake or a typo, but then the Department of Public Welfare confirmed that it was indeed legitimate. A department spokesperson said that food stamp account balances roll over every month for up to 12 months. After 12 months of inactivity, the account is closed.
The spokesperson said while high balances are unusual, they do occur. The spokesperson said sometimes people will grow their own food or use their own money first before dipping into the food stamp account.
Since our story first aired, viewers told us about two more accounts with high balances. One account had a balance of $7,500 and another had a balance of more than $3,800.
“Do they need food stamps to begin with if you are able to accumulate that type of balance?" asked Reed, who in his letter urged Congress to take a hard look at the food stamp program. He’s calling on Congress to improve oversight and management of the program, or at least give individual states the right to make the changes.
“In Washington folks are debating whether they should cut food stamps, perhaps if they just brought some common sense to the program they wouldn’t have to cut it. These are programs we need. There are folks who truly need help. For every single person that has a $12,000 account balance, it makes the taxpayers question whether these programs are really being run properly,” said Reed.
We showed the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare the receipt with the $12,000 balance, and she too was concerned about it and vowed to investigate.
“Is that a concern to you when you have a balance like that?” questioned Earle.
“Yea, yes that is. And I don’t understand why that is,” said Mackereth.
A spokesperson from the Public Welfare emailed us a fact sheet this week about the food stamp program, but they have still not released any specific information about that $12,000 food stamp balance.
We will continue to follow this story and keep you posted on the latest developments.