In fiscal 2012, the U.S. government spent $74.6 billion on food assistance. Currently there are 47.7 million Americans receiving benefits. This number has almost doubled since 2008 and is increasing almost daily.
Now there is a new twist to this bloated social welfare program: Some food stamp recipients are using their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to buy groceries in the United States and sending them to relatives overseas, mainly to several Caribbean countries.
In largely Caribbean New York neighborhoods, supermarkets offer hundreds of 45- to 55-gallon barrels for shipping. People buy the barrels for about $40 each and use their food stamps to fill them over time with up to $2,000 worth of rice, beans, pasta, canned milk, and other food staples. They then call a shipping company to pick up the barrels and send them mostly to Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republican for about $70.
It is not surprising that massive fraud is occurring in a social welfare program like food stamps. Every barrel that leaves our shores for another country is costing the American taxpayer. The food stamp program is designed to help poor Americans who do not have enough to eat and should not be intended as underground foreign aid.
If it is happening in New York then it’s happening in other cities. In an era of overspending and massive deficits, it is time to crack down on fraud and abuse in our social welfare system.