Goodlatte Takes on Food Stamp Waste, Fraud, and Abuse; Electronic Benefit Transfer Systems Called Effective

Mar 12, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture, continued his focus on eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse in the food stamp program today, convening his first subcommittee hearing of the 105th Congress on Electronic Benefit Transfer Systems (EBT), an effective and vastly more secure means of delivering food stamp benefits.

On Monday, Goodlatte and Rep. Bob Smith, Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, introduced legislation (H.R. 1000) requiring states to institute a system to verify that prisoners are not participating in the food stamp program. The General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report which concluded that millions of dollars are wasted in food stamp overpayments to households of the incarcerated, despite the Food Stamp Act's prohibition on prisoner participation in the program. Rep. Goodlatte's bill will be considered by the full Agriculture Committee at a 1:00 p.m. business meeting today.

"Electronic Benefit Transfer Systems offer an effective means of delivering benefits to the recipients, and only the recipients, for whom they are intended. Used much like a debit card, EBT systems employ a magnetic card which recipients use to pay for food at authorized outlets. The system deducts the amount spent, and records when and where it was spent. Unlike food stamps, they cannot be sold, traded, or brokered on the black market," Goodlatte said.

"Food stamp waste, fraud, and abuse have a corrosive effect on the food stamp program, the American people's confidence in it, and in the communities where these illegally sold and traded benefits wind up. Fairness dictates that we aggressively pursue alternative means of distributing those benefits if we are to keep faith with the American taxpayer and the low-income recipients for whom these nutritional benefits are intended. EBT systems are a very promising alternative to conventional paper food stamps, and this subcommittee will thoroughly study their potential, today and throughout the 105th Congress," Goodlatte concluded.

Under omnibus welfare reform legislation passed last year, states are encouraged to implement EBT systems for the delivery of benefits and are expected to implement EBT systems by 2002. States were given significant control over the design of their EBT systems, increasing the incentive for states to implement EBT.

Goodlatte represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, which includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah Valley, in the U.S. House of Representatives.