WILMINGTON — About $48,700 in food stamp benefits were obtained in 2015 in ways violating the program, according to the local unit that provides public assistance.
Staff in the family services unit at Clinton County Job and Family Services (JFS) reported the figure in a presentation to county commissioners. Their appointment was in connection with Job and Family Services’ Fraud Awareness Month.
Of the $48,700 in ineligible food benefits, recipients made $11,023 of repayments.
Clinton County Job and Family Services Director Kathi Spirk said the majority of people receiving public assistance do not defraud the system.
“But there are those, as in every system, that may take advantage, or may give us information that is not credible, to be eligible for assistance,” she added.
The agency takes those cases very seriously, said Spirk, and violators can face criminal charges in addition to being removed from public assistance programs.
The public assistance programs available through JFS’ family services unit are Medicaid, food assistance (called SNAP which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and cash assistance.
Among Clinton Countians receiving some form of public assistance through the family unit, the majority of them receive Medicaid.
That’s attributed to the Affordable Health Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare), Spirk told commissioners.
“More folks are now eligible for Medicaid,” she continued.
In Ohio, about 75 percent of public assistance recipients are either elderly, children, or they have disabilities, according to Spirk.
And 25 percent of recipients have a work component, she said. The agency’s goal with them is self-sufficiency, she added.
The agency has been able to help people find jobs “many times,” said Spirk.
Instead of describing public assistance, as critics do, as giving handouts to individuals, she said, “We like to think of it as a hand-up” because of the goal of self-sufficiency.
About a fourth of Clinton County’s population, said the JFS director, receive various services through the agency — with the majority of them receiving Medicaid.
After hearing the presentation, Clinton County Commissioner Kerry R. Steed said concerning the topic of public assistance fraud, “When they’re stealing benefits from the program, they’re actually stealing it from everyone else that really could be eligible and needs it.”
According to the commissioners resolution that proclaimed May as JFS Fraud Awareness Month, Clinton County Job and Family Services dispersed approximately $800,000 monthly in SNAP food assistance and $60,000 in Ohio Works First cash assistance in Clinton County in 2015.
Those programs assist citizens who meet the federal poverty standards, stated the resolution.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.
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