CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - The State Department of Transitional Assistance administers SNAP, the former food stamp program, as well as two cash- assistance programs for low income residents.
The 22News I-Team did some digging and found out that the cash-assistance programs are open to possible abuse.
The state Department of Transitional Assistance administers SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
SNAP allows individuals and families below the poverty line to use EBT, Electronic Benefits Transfer cards to buy food from participating vendors, like Big Y supermarkets.
SNAP only covers food items, but not taxable non-food items.
Big Y corporate manager Janet Rankin told 22News the cashier systems at participating stores make it impossible for an EBT card to pay for an ineligible item, "...so the register actually separates those items in the total. So it knows which items are food stamp-allowed, and they can purchase with their SNAP card, and those they cant."
SNAP participant Richard Eldridge was laid off at Hasbro last year.
Eldridge is attending Heating and Ventilation training at Porter and Chester Institute in Chicopee.
He told 22News he gets $187.00 per month loaded onto his EBT card; "I usually try to keep track of it in my mind so that way I know that I'm buying something that doesn't go on the card, I have back-up; my ATM card or cash on me for that."
While it's impossible to buy ineligble items under SNAP, DTA also administers two cash- benefits program to help very low income participants pay for rent and other necessities.
Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) are "cash assistance" programs.
Under those programs, cash is loaded onto the same EBT card used for SNAP.
And while it's not supposed to be used for ineligible items like alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets, Commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance Julia Kehoe told 22News they can't stop it from happening; "There's no way to really police it. Unlike SNAP, where there are mechanisms to prevent people from using the benefits for certain things. You can't on cash."
Kehoe told 22News that lack of control over the cash benefit is a problem the Patrick administration is trying to address.
Commissioner Kehoe said, "The Administration supports a measure filed (in the legislature) last year that would make it illegal for stores to accept EBT cards to purchase cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets."