(The Center Square) – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Office of The Inspector General will receive $749,987 to reduce food stamp fraud.
The grant funds innovative concepts and best practices over the next three years to detect, investigate and prevent the misuse of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program program Benefits, which security experts say is a “national problem.”
“Michigan is committed to helping families in need put food on the table,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement. “This grant will help improve recipient fraud prevention, detection and investigation efforts for Michigan’s SNAP program, which will help ensure these benefits are being used properly and beneficiaries are not affected by bad actors fraudulently using their benefits.”
The award will support program integrity efforts including computer forensic examiner software and hardware to assist in cybercrimes associated with SNAP.
In June, The Center Square reported Michigan reimbursed $35,760 of reported stolen Food Assistance Program benefits in September 2022.
From June 2022 through the end of the year, MDHHS reimbursed $131,753 to residents who reported stolen funds, according to documents The Center Square obtained through a Freedom of Information Act. Over those seven months, the state reimbursed an average of $18,882 of benefits each month.
OIG will collaborate with MDHHS’ Economic Stability Administration to educate beneficiaries through media campaigns that inform recipients about the security of their Electronic Benefits Transfer cards. OIG investigators and managers will attend a nationally recognized training course on investigative interviewing techniques.
Inspector General Alan Kimichik welcomed the funds.
The SNAP Fraud Framework grant will assist OIG in their work to investigate fraud, waste and abuse in the SNAP program administered by MDHHS and to increase program integrity and accountability,” Kimchik said in a statement. “This work benefits all Michigan residents by helping ensure that funds for public assistance programs are available to families that truly need them, and that taxpayer dollars are spent on their intended purpose.”
Michigan will also test its EBT vendor’s integrated fraud management tool, which provides analytics, monitoring, alerts, and cardholder notification of potentially fraudulent activities.
Much SNAP fraud, including the selling of personal data occurs on the dark web, a deeper part of the internet that isn’t indexed by many search engines.