San Diego County officials have been playing fast and loose with the so-called Electronic Benefit Transfer cards used by welfare recipients to buy food and other essentials, according to a July audit. In addition to groceries, a multi-million-dollar federally funded program called CalFresh allows homeless senior citizens over 60 to use the cards for meals at participating restaurants.
The cards are handed out by 13 so-called family-resource centers that auditors say need to tighten their security. One of the centers “has the safe open all day until the last client is served,” and none have an “approval process for vault combination reset.” Lack of such legally required safeguards “may result in unauthorized access” to the benefit cards, says the audit. Additionally, two of the units have shredded cards without review, and two “have not maintained record logs for destroyed cards.” Concludes the report: “Lack of written policies and procedures on card destruction creates the risk of fraudulent activities.”
A July 9 response to the findings by the county’s Health and Human Services Agency promised to fix the problems. In June, federal prosecutors charged 54 defendants in Atlanta, Georgia, with buying the card-borne welfare benefits for cash “at a fraction of the amount they received…by redeeming the benefits they had purchased.”