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Congressman Warns Of Gross Food Stamp Balances In Ohio

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Republican Rep. Bob Gibbs of Ohio warned Monday that some food stamp recipients have grossly inflated balances in their welfare accounts, taking resources away from struggling families.

In a recent report, Channel 10 News of Ohio found 41 households in the state had balances between $7,000 and $10,000. Another 14 households had balances of $10,000 to $21,000. Some of the recipients in Ohio had tens of thousands of dollars on their government benefit cards. An individual on food stamps can expect to receive a maximum of $194 in benefits a month. Recipients can receive more depending on how many people are in their family.

Since the airing of the report, Gibbs has failed, despite many attempts, to get a response from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the program.

“That’s what we’re trying to get the USDA to look into,” Gibbs told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “It raises a big question about oversight.”

Gibbs added that it’s not uncommon for even congressmen to get a slow response from federal agencies. The issue has since hit the desks of other lawmakers due to concern it could be widespread. A total of 27 congressman recently signed on to a letter of concerns sent to Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Administrator Audrey Rowe.

[dcquiz] “We’ll see what the USDA says,” Gibbs continued. “Hopefully they’ll fix those administrative leaks but if not, we’ll need legislative action.”

The inflated accounts aren’t a result of fraud either. At the very least, the recipients are acting within what the law allows. In some cases, a recipient might continue to collect benefits even after he no longer needs them. Those recipients could then let their welfare balances grow since they aren’t dependent on government assistance.

The balance can only been taken away if the individual account has been completely inactive for an entire year. Gibbs has proposed shortening the amount of time an account need to be inactive to just 60 days. He argues such a reform could help curb the problem significantly.

“How does someone accumulate those sorts of balances.” Gibbs added. “Its obvious they don’t need the money if they’re not using it.”

Gibbs tried to add his 60 days idea into the latest farm bill. The provision, though, was taken out in conference after it had already passed the House. Nevertheless, Gibbs and the other congressmen are not willing to give up. He notes they are prepared to draft legislation or bring USDA officials before a congressional hearing. In the meantime, they are just waiting to hear what the agency says.

The USDA did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.

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