As he pledged in the fall following the sentencing of the perpetrators of a $3.6 million money-laundering and fraud scheme carried out through a Providence convenience store, Rep. Arthur J. Corvese has reintroduced his legislation aimed at preventing misuse of the food assistance program.
The legislation, which Representative Corvese has introduced in various forms for three years, would ban the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) at establishments that specialize in products aimed at adults, like liquor stores.
“While we have to focus on the economy and jobs, we also have to fix the system when it doesn’t work and preserve our limited financial resources. To that end, EBT fraud is a real problem, not only for the families that are cheated out of real monies, but also to the taxpayers who suffer when their money is wasted,” said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence).
The bill (2015-H 5018) would prohibit EBT transactions at liquor stores, casinos and other gambling facilities, retail establishments that provide entertainment involving nudity, adult bookstores or adult paraphernalia shops, firearms dealers, tattoo parlors, jewelry stores and on cruise ships.
While some of those establishments may sell some products that are food – for instance liquor stores that sell lemons – allowing them to process EBT transactions provides too wide an opportunity for fraudulent use of SNAP funds, said Representative Corvese.
Under last year’s bill, which passed the House unanimously, recipients who make purchases in violation of the prohibition would be punished by having their assistance docked for one month for the amount assigned to one parent in that family for a first offense, for three months for a second offense, and for a year for subsequent offenses. In this year’s bill, Representative Corvese strengthened the penalty for a third offense by permanently removing the offending individual from the SNAP rolls.
Store owners with liquor or lottery licenses would be reported to their licensing agencies for punishment.
Representative Corvese said his resolve to see the legislation enacted was strengthened by September’s sentencing of several of the 11 people convicted of defrauding the federal SNAP program through the Stop & Go convenience store in Providence. In that case, a two-year federal investigation found the store owner and employees let SNAP recipients exchange their SNAP benefits for cash. He said he plans to work with the Senate leadership to help pave the way for the bill’s passage in that chamber next year.