Make your home page

Food stamps trafficking draws attention of Indiana lawmakers

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The feds call it trafficking.

You may know it as buying and selling modern-day food stamps.

State lawmakers say it is happening right here in Indiana, and they want it to stop.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, two Indiana stores were permanently disqualified from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program in 2017. In both cases, federal documents showed store personnel were caught exchanging Indiana SNAP benefits for cash.

State Rep. Heath VanNatter, a Republican from Kokomo, said, “It happens, for sure. But, we don’t know how much. That’s why we need to do the study here in Indiana.”

Which is where VanNatter’s bill before Indiana lawmakers comes in. Unanimously approved in a Senate committee Monday morning, the bill calls for a summer study of SNAP benefit eligibility requirements and fraud. VanNatter said he’s heard stories of fraud.

VanNatter said, “People at grocery stores, people in front of them using their food stamps to buy stuff, then using their cash to buy alcohol and cigarettes.”

The goal, he said, is to help people who truly need it and weed out the fakers, especially since tax dollars are involved.

VanNatter said, “I know that a lot of times, it’s such small amounts, that prosecutors don’t have time to mess with it.”

If you’re an adult without children and you’re able, you have to work to get Indiana SNAP benefits. The bill would also look into requiring those ordered to pay child support to pay for at least part of it before getting SNAP benefits.

Danielle Coulter, with Dant Advocacy in Indianapolis, who testified about the bill Monday morning, said, “We’re not saying they have to pay all the money every month or else you don’t get to eat. We’re simply saying make the effort to try. If you can only pay $1 a month, at least you’re showing a sign of good faith.”

The bill will continue through the Senate. It already unanimously passed the House in January.