LETTER – bill preventing benefit payments to dead recipients

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 The Assembly State and Local Government Committee today advanced a bill sponsored by Assemblymen Ron Dancer and Jay Webber that combats fraud in state and federal public benefit programs.

 

Under the bill (A3448), state entities that administer benefit programs are required to verify a recipient’s personal information and cross-check it with death records to prevent payment to deceased recipients.

 

“There are people who legitimately need help from programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and Work First New Jersey,” said Dancer (R—Ocean). “However, these vital safety nets are tempting targets for people who want to scam the system and make off with money that could help deserving families. The goal of this legislation is to close loopholes that have been used to steal money.”

 

An audit of the state’s supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) in 2014 found 37 people receiving food benefits after their death, and 26 of them had received more than $39,000 in public money. The auditor’s report advised government agencies to compare the names of SNAP and welfare beneficiaries with the Social Security Administration’s death index to prevent this from happening in the future.

 

“Former Governor Byrne likes to joke that when he dies, he wants to be buried in Hudson County so he can stay active in politics.  But this is no joke — every public dollar paid to a dead person is a dollar unavailable for struggling New Jersey families,” said Webber (R—Morris). “This problem can get out of hand in a hurry. Almost 3,000 deceased benefit recipients in Illinois cost that state more than $12 million from Medicaid in 2013. We need to use common sense and a little technology to prevent this fraud, protect taxpayers, and ensure the assistance goes where it is intended.“