Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, has introduced three bills intended to combat fraud, abuse and waste within state-run public-assistance programs. Carrell’s measures are part of a package of legislation unveiled at a Thursday news conference, which included bills from Sens. Joseph Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, and Don Benton, R-Vancouver.
Senate Bill 5327 would limit the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to locations where the benefit of the child receiving the assistance is paramount. The measure would make the use of EBT cards at certain adult-oriented locations a gross misdemeanor.
“There is evidence of EBT cards being used at firearm dealers, liquor stores, tattoo parlors, tobacco outlets, and strip clubs,” Carrell said. “These cards are supposed to be used for the benefit of children – not adults – and children are not using these cards at strip clubs or to buy alcohol. We need to make certain the funds are being used in a manner intended by taxpayers.”
Carrell has also proposed Senate Bill 5329, which would create a special-investigations department within the state auditor’s office. Currently, all authority for fraud and abuse investigations related to state Department of Social and Health Services programs lies within DSHS. This measure would allow the state auditor to handle all cases of fraudulent activity, ensuring they are investigated thoroughly and, if necessary, referred to the appropriate authorities.
In another effort to combat fraud, Carrell has proposed randomly auditing taxpayer-subsidized daycare providers working with the Working Connections child care program. Senate Bill 5331 would require regular auditing of daycare facility attendance records to ensure each facility is receiving appropriate funding. Thirty percent of licensed facilities and 50 percent of unlicensed facilities would be audited each year.
“Each biennium the state spends 102 million dollars on subsidies for unlicensed child care providers,” Carrell said. “Currently, we have no way of ensuring the integrity of these programs. Random auditing would allow the state to ensure that the funds are being appropriately allotted to each facility.”