Missouri welfare benefits being spent in Hawaii

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by Chris Nagus

KMOV.com

Posted on March 2, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:54 AM

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(KMOV) -- A News 4 Investigation reveals Missouri residents receiving food stamps and welfare payments are spending them in places like Hawaii, California, and Florida.

News 4 requested public information regarding these expenses through the Missouri Department of Social Services. The agency provided a state by state break down of where Missouri benefits are being spent, click here to see the list.

In January Missouri EBT cards were used to withdraw $362,682 in cash outside the state. During that same time period Missouri EBT cards purchased $3,521,974 worth of food outside Missouri. Those card users racked up $752 worth of ATM fees, they were also paid by taxpayers.

Many of the EBT purchases were in border states, but a large chunk of change was spent in hard to reach places like California, Alaska, and Hawaii.

In Hawaii Missouri EBT cardholders spent $2,737 on food in January. During that same time period there were 6 ATM transactions totaling $175.

In California Missouri EBT users purchased $69,672 worth of food, and withdrew $7,818 from ATMs.

In Texas Missouri EBT users purchased $139,763 worth of food, and withdrew $20,981 from ATMs.

In Florida Missouri EBT users purchased $84,061 in food, and withdrew $9,737 from ATMs.

In Alaska Missouri EBT users purchased $1,845 in food, and withdrew $465 from ATMs. 

Brian Hook runs Missouri Watchdog, a non partisan group that digs information out of government agencies. Hook says the transactions might not be fraud, but likely illustrate waste. Hook said, "The first thing that jumps to my mind is where did they get the money to get to Hawaii and Alaska."

The Missouri Department of Social Services has declined on camera interviews, but in an email told News 4 out of state EBT transactions do raise a red flag. A spokesperson with the department says they routinely review out of state EBT transactions.

Like this story? Check out these related reports:

Missouri's top food stamp recipients

Those who rely on food stamps say fraud makes them look bad

Food stamp funds in MO, IL funneled overseas

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