For the first quarter of fiscal year 2016, 37 clients were caught in violation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Guam – A total of 37 residents were disqualified temporarily from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamp program, because they were caught violating the rules.
DPHSS Program Coordinator Francis Damian explains, “Out of that 37 violations, 26 clients that were found in non-compliance of trafficking, which is coordinated efforts with a store. That’s how they’re being caught. That also includes a restitution of about $29-thousand dollars.”
Out of the 37 disqualifications, 26 clients were disqualified for crediting food or nonfood items or exchanging cash with their SNAP EBT card, also known as trafficking. Two were disqualified for failing to report the loss of household and nine were disqualified for failing to report employment timely.
“So those are the two main things. It’s always the income, people are not reporting their household properly. They’re actually employed and afraid to lose the benefits. This is meant to supplement your income for your children…and the loss of household,” Damian says.
Compared to last quarter which shows a total of 42 disqualifications, this most recent report from the Department of Public Health and Social Services, which covers the period from October 2015 to December 2015, shows a slight drop at 37 disqualifications.
However, Damian says trafficking is still a problem. “Right now, we believe it is. As a matter of fact, there’s a really good push on the federal side. We had trainings and meetings regarding this. Because of this, there’s a big push to address trafficking. Right now we’re seeing an upward trend. They’re catching a lot more stores which in turn means there’s more trafficking regarding clietns as well. That’s been our main focus for a year, almost two years now.”
Damian explains what the consequences are for violations. He says, “The very first time you’re caught, that goes for 12 months out of the program. If you’re caught a second time, that goes for 24 months or two years. The final one is for the third violation, the disqualification is permanent.”
Out of the 37 disqualifications, 34 were disqualified for 12 months and three were disqualified for 24 months. Damian explains, however, if a client is caught trafficking over $500 dollars, it also results in permanent disqualification. “Even if you’re caught here on Guam, you move somewhere else, this follows. Because it’s a nationwide program, if you get banned here, you’re banned elsewhere as well,” he says.
[photo credit: mynurish]