by Rep. Kevin Cameron (R-Salem)
“Hundreds of Oregonians who were deceased, incarcerated or won the lottery were among the beneficiaries of three public assistance programs intended for low-income individuals, according to a state audit released Wednesday …The cases highlighted in the audit – which examined only a sampling of the programs’ 1.4 million participants in the past two years – totaled about $2.8 million in erroneously paid benefits.” ~ The Oregonian, May 8, 2013 “Loose eligibility criteria, reporting allowed lottery winners, prisoners to receive public assistance, audit finds”
This session, Representatives Hanna, Whisnant and Thompson introduced a series of bills related to fraud within Oregon’s public assistance programs. All of these bills failed to receive a hearing by Rep. Tomei, Chair of the House Committee on Health and Human Services. Wednesday of this week, House Republicans tried to pull five bills straight to the floor for a vote. All five of these dealt with some form of welfare abuse and fraud. The motion to pull the bills died on party lines.
These bills addressed the following:
• HB 2717: Permits the Dept. of Human Services and Oregon Health Authority to suspend public assistance to a recipient who fails – without good cause – to provide requested documentation in connection with a possible overpayment of public assistance.
• HB 2718: Requires the Dept. of Human Services to establish a registry of individuals and families receiving social services from state and county agencies to enable these agencies to coordinate the provision of services.
• HB 2721: Requires public employees involved in administration of public assistance to report suspected fraud using procedures adopted by the Dept. of Human Services or Oregon Health Authority.
• HB 3252: Requires electronic benefits transfer cards to display the photograph of all adults authorized to use it.
• HB 3322: Requires the Department of Human Services to ensure that electronic benefits transfer cards cannot be used to purchase prepaid credit cards.
These bills would have been a good first step toward identifying and preventing fraud within the system. We need to make sure funding is going to help those in need and not being stolen through fraud and abuse.
In 2012 federal and state spending for public assistance programs totaled about $6.6 billion, with about $2 billion of that being state money. There is a substantial amount of money involved and it is past time to get serious about holding agencies accountable for the distribution of these funds.
Please click here to watch Rep Cameron’s remonstrance on the House Floor talking about ensuring public assistance money goes to those in need.