MADISON (WKOW) – State officials say they are going put more resources toward addressing fraud within the FoodShare program.
That's after an audit that revealed more than 1,639 people got FoodShare benefits in January even though they were not eligible, including prison inmates.
A Legislative Audit Bureau report showed 1,192 fugitives or parole violators and 447 state prison inmates got FoodShare benefits.
From the time the inmates were incarcerated to March, they collected $413,000 worth.
"The number of people was a bit of a surprise but if we knew everything, we wouldn't do these audits," said Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay).
He and Rep. Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake) called for the audit as co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
The audit also found that people who broke FoodShare program rules simply reapplied and continued to get benefits.
"We want a transparent government and we want to make sure the folks paying taxes are getting value for their taxes," Cowles said.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture memo went out to regional directors about the inmate issue with food stamps back in November.
The Department of Health Services said workers would be reassigned to address the problem. An agency spokeswoman said even more resources will be put towards it when the Office of Inspector General is fully operational.
"We have to really trust their commitment to living up to the recommendations of the report so people can feel confident in the program," said Kris Tazelaar, communications manager at Second Harvest Foodbank. The organization helps thousands of people each year apply to get food stamps.
"The fact of the matter is it is helping hundreds of thousands of people and we can't lose the fact that all these people are being helped by the program," Tazelaar said.
The Audit Bureau made a list of nine recommendations for DHS to report on by December 3.
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