Fraud was the price of food safety in Connecticut after Hurricane Irene.
Over the past weekend, an angry Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state was investigating “multiple incidents of possible fraud” by state residents, including some state employees, who took money intended for low-income people to replace food spoiled in the aftermath of the storm.
Due to the emergency, anyone could get, on the honor system, $200 to $952 depending on family size from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — the former food stamp program now known as SNAP.
The tropical storm that hit the state on Aug. 28 cut power to hundreds of thousands of Connecticut households and, for many, electricity was not restored for a week. Food spoilage was a major food safety concern, and the best solution was seen as providing replacement food.
SNAP money was offered to low-income residents, but on a one-time basis those asking for the funds did not have to prove need in order to get their spoiled food replaced quickly.
Now the state’s anti-fraud unit is finding that among more than 24,000 residents who received the funds were some who did not qualify, including some state employees who clearly make too much to qualify for SNAP benefits.
Food spoilage is a major problem after many natural and man-made disasters. USDA’s standing advice is to discard refrigerated perishable food including meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk eggs, leftovers and deli items if the power is out for more than four hours.
“The idea that someone would use the occurrence of a devastating storm as an opportunity to defraud a public program is an outrage,” Gov. Malloy said. He said the fact that state employees were involved in the fraud makes it “much more offensive.”