Audit Finds Benefits Paid To Prisoners, Dead People

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 5:00pm
Updated: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 5:04pm

Prisoners and dead people received food stamps and welfare benefits in 2012. An audit of the Arizona department that authorizes these programs was released this week. 

The problem boils down to cross referencing. The benefits were paid to ineligible people because the Department of Economic Security didn’t correctly match death and prison records with people it paid.

Victoria Fisher with the Auditor General’s office worked on this report. She says officials compared records of county jails but not state prisons.

“We recommended that they should develop and implement a process to work with the Arizona Department of Corrections and other counties to obtain inmate data and preform matches against SNAP and TANF program participant data,” said Fisher. 

About 16 percent of the random sample auditors evaluated shouldn’t have received benefits, but the full extent of the problem isn’t known.

Michael Wisehart is with the division of the Department of Economic Security that handles benefits. He says the agency is proactively working to fix the issues highlighted in the report.

“We have already reached out to our partners in the correctional facilities in order to figure out what the best course forward is for gathering this data,” said Wisehart.

Wisehart says programs are in place to recover money incorrectly paid and the agency is working to improve them. 

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