Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal isn’t going to forget about the people who willingly stole EBT benefits during the recent technical malfunction at Xerox Corp. The malfunction took down the electronic benefit transfer system last month for several hours in 17 states, including Louisiana.
Those people who walked away with “free” groceries that exceeded their EBT balances face losing their benefits for a year, two years or permanently depending on how many prior infractions they have. More than 12,000 transactions generated insufficient funds notices once the EBT system came back online Oct. 12 and retailers could process stored transactions. Louisiana hasn’t released figures on how many people in the state actually made use of the malfunction.
Suzy Sonnier, secretary of the state Department of Children and Family Services, said the Jindal administration will start with the most egregious cases first.
“We must protect the program for those who receive and use their benefits appropriately according to the law. We are looking at each case individually, addressing those recipients who are suspected of misrepresenting their eligibility for benefits or defrauding the system,” Sonnier said in a prepared statement.
Sonnier’s announcement came just days after U.S. Sen. David Vitter urged the Jindal administration to take action in a national news story that unfolded with the help of smartphone technology. Shoppers snapped images of empty store shelves and bulging grocery carts at Wal-Marts in Springhill and Mansfield.
However, abuse of the system apparently occurred across Louisiana.
“The recent over-the-top food stamp theft and fraud gave Louisiana and the program a real black eye. I’m certainly glad the state is acting on my urgent suggestion. I look forward to discussing the details with Secretary Sonnier in my upcoming meeting with her and Attorney General (Buddy) Caldwell,” Vitter said in a prepared statement.
Violators can expect to get a letter about disqualification along with an offer to appeal through an administrative hearing.