AG Mills on LePage EBT Fraud Claims: Put Issue In Perspective, Go After “Big Fish” Too
In early January, Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves sent a letter requesting that Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills and her office look into the allegations of widespread EBT fraud put forth by Governor Paul LePage. In the letter, they requested that the Attorney General review, and if necessary prosecute, the governors allegations of fraud and abuse in Maine’s anti-poverty programs.
In a press release to media, Democrats stated their position clearly:
Maine Democrats are committed to ensuring that all public dollars are used effectively, efficiently and for the purposes for which they are intended. This is especially true with respect to anti-poverty programs designed to help struggling families get back on their feet again. Abuse of the system, whether perpetrated by recipients, businesses or health care providers that receive these dollars, cannot be tolerated and must be stopped.
Democrats believe fraud should be prosecuted not politicized. We must focus on real solutions to the serious problem of poverty and unemployment in our state.
On Monday, Mills sent a letter back to the Democratic leaders and minced no words in how she views the Governor’s recent tirades against EBT fraudulent users, which his own released data showed to have a scant 0.2% fraud rate– ignoring the fact that the remaining 99.8% rate of usage is completely legitimate- as agreeing with the Democrats’ previous assertion that the Governor’s focus on such a small percentage of possible fraud could be politically motivated.
Here is AG Janet Mills’ letter sent to Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves:
Mills discusses not just the 0.2% of purported fraud claimed to have been discovered by LePage’s office, but the fact that only the location of the ATM transactions is known- what the monies withdrawn were spent upon is anyone’s guess:
“Whether anybody has ever used EBT funds withdrawn from an ATM in any bank, store or other facility to purchase a pint of coffee brandy is beyond my direct knowledge, although I would not be surprised if this has occurred. Such behavior, of course, is socially unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible. However, there are other antisocial behaviors involving the misuse of public funds which cause me equal or greater concern.”
What has yet to be considered by any public officials yet are such reasonable and legitimate possibilities as employees on assistance might be withdrawing cash at their place of employment to pay for gasoline to get back and forth to work. It is not unreasonable to consider that employees at “strip clubs, bars and smoke shops” are making minimum or lower wages than most workers.As for the Governor’s “46 states” statistic… has anyone considered that maybe those are some of Maine’s currently enlisted military families, stationed elsewhere? Last year, it was reported that military families nationwide redeemed $100 million in SNAP benefits- yet that part of the discussion has yet to be had locally or looked into as an explanation of why Maine EBT cards have been used in almost every state, yet been part of such a tiny overall number.
Mills informed the leaders that her office was very much focused on all sorts of fraud, including that by providers stealing millions from the state:
- “While we are taking action against eligibility and recipient fraud which is more visible to the public and more talked about, provider fraud is also a very high priority for us. These providers steal millions of dollars from the public purse and seriously undermine the public trust in our MaineCare program.”
In her conclusion, Mills advised that focal balance be a part of eliminating fraud:
“There is a great deal of talk this election year about welfare fraud. I hope that we put this issue in perspective, and make sure we apply the rule of law fairly and uniformly, that we go after the big fish as well as the small, and that we not elevate one over the other.”