Government assistance payees have been whipping out EBT cards at luxury resorts, using taxpayer money to live it up.
The Boston Herald conducted an investigation and uncovered millions of dollars in EBT expenditures at luxury resorts and cash withdrawals in nearly every state. EBT cards are used to distribute taxpayer assistance among welfare recipients. A review of these expenses found that a single Massachusetts EBT card was used 18 separate times at a Hawaii resort, where a single night stay can cost up to 800 dollars. Upon further investigation, the state found roughly 2 million dollars worth of EBT charges ranging all over the country. In one case, a round trip plane ticket out of the continental U.S has been placed on an EBT card.
These cards are strictly granted to those who qualify for government assistance and are to be used for basic necessities. The Department of Transitional Assistance prohibits EBT use for vacation services, however, they do allow cardholders to use them for hotels.
While the DTA states that tattoos, alcohol, lottery tickets, gambling, and other forms of adult entertainment are prohibited, these cards can be used for cash withdrawals at select ATM locations.
State Representative, Shaunna O’Connell, who has been a loud advocate against welfare fraud, told the Boston Herald they shouldn’t be seeing expenses at out-of-state locations and certainly not at five-star resorts.
The Boston Herald claims it reached out to the agency asking for an explanation, which it never received.
A spokesperson for the DTA eventually announced that they monitor these out-of-state expenditures to see if the card recipient had moved. They say that they hope to prevent fraud by blocking transactions where EBT use is prohibited. Additionally, they claim their EBT cards are monitored under strict data analytics to keep track of these transactions. The DTA has reportedly not addressed the charges in Hawaii along with the out-of-state cash withdrawals.
The charges found by the Boston Herald are indicative of bigger problems on the horizon. Nearly a decade ago, there were nearly 61,000 reports of abuse or fraud within the government assistance department. Data shows a disturbing number of overpayments and an alarming amount of benefits being funneled into ineligible households. Fraud within the entire welfare system remains rampant despite prior reform and measures to prevent it.