Missouri lawmaker proposes changes to food stamp program

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by Chris Nagus / News 4 Investigates

KMOV.com

Posted on March 10, 2011 at 1:29 AM

Updated Friday, Jul 20 at 4:51 PM

(KMOV) -- A News 4 investigation into where Missouri food stamps are being spent is catching the attention of lawmakers in Jefferson City.

In January 3,521,974 worth of food stamps were spent outside the state, including transactions in places like Hawaii, Florida, and California. During that same time period 363,682 dollars worth of TANF benefits (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) were withdrawn from ATMs outside Missouri.

Mark Parkinson (R-District 16) is pitching legislation to change where Missouri EBT benefits can be accessed. Click here to see House Bill 816. 

Parkinson said, "I would like to see 100 percent of the money funneled through the federal government to the state, to a food stamp recipient to be spent in Missouri, to help Missouri retailers." 

Jeanette Oxford (D-District 59) said she will challenge Parkinson's legislation. Oxford says the food stamp program is scrutinized, and contains very little fraud. She also said there are many logical reasons why food stamp and TANF recipients need to spend the benefits outside Missouri.  Oxford said, "In the cases of people who might be in California or Hawaii, a friend of mine just spent four months in Utah as her mother was dying. People on food stamps sometimes have those family emergencies."

News 4 also spoke with Wendy Evans, she worked as a caseworker until retiring in 2006. Evans said, "Unfortunately there were lots of cases of fraud that we would find out about and the real unfortunate part was very little was done about it." Evans says improving the program would require adding more food stamp fraud investigators. The state of Missouri currently has 20 people to investigate food stamp fraud.

According to Mark Parkinson the bill would contain a provision allowing members of the military to continue receiving Missouri EBT if they are required to move out of state. A spokeswoman at Ft. Leonard Wood tells News 4 the number of military members receiving public aid is small, they are still working to provide a number.

News 4 will continue tracking the progress of House Bill 816.

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