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The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away in

Prof. Peabody

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The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away in Vegas, Hawaii and Disney World

By David Gardner
Last updated at 10:47 PM on 4th October 2010

Millions of dollars of California welfare handouts have been frittered away on gambling sprees in Las Vegas, expensive sunshine holidays in Hawaii and at Disney World in Florida.

More than $69 million in benefits meant to clothe and feed needy families was spent outside California in recent years, making a mockery of the state’s attempts to help the poor.

The scale of the scandal revealed in today’s Los Angeles Times has stunned state officials who are fighting to preserve vital services in the face of drastic budget cuts.

According to data obtained by the Times from the California Department of Social Services, state-issued aid cards have been used at hotels, shops, restaurants, ATM machines and other places in 49 other states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

By far the most popular destination for benefit spenders was Las Vegas, where nearly $12 million of cash was accessed from the aid cards over the past three years.

To qualify for welfare, recipients must prove they are desperate for help to pay for necessities like food and shelter.

A single parent with two children must usually earn less than $14,436 a year to qualify for assistance, said a social services official.

‘How they can go somewhere like Hawaii and be legit on aid - they can’t. This is money for basic subsistence needs,’ said Robert Hollenbeck, a fraud investigator for the Fresno County district attorney’s office.

The nearly $387,908 accessed in Hawaii was spread through all the major islands, from $234,000 in Oahu, $70,626 on Maui, $39,883 on Hawaii and $22,170 on Kauai.

More than $3,000 was spent at gift shops next to Jimmy Buffet’s Beachcomber restaurant at Waikiki Beach and $2,146 was taken from an ATM on Lanai, a small, exclusive island which is home to two Four Seasons resorts.

‘If it’s on Lana, that should trigger an investigation. California taxpayers who are struggling to keep their own jobs are subsidizing other people’s vacations. That’s absurd,’ Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association, told the Times.

Of the $11.8 million accessed in Las Vegas, more than $1 million was spent or withdrawn at hotels and casinos around the neon-lit Strip.

California welfare scandal: $69million in benefits spent in Vegas, Hawaii and Disney World | Mail Online
I guess welfare isn't just for families struggling to eat anymore. What good is life without a gambling trip to Vegas. I'm sure life isn't worth living without that Hawaiian vacation paid for by the taxpayers. For some reason the knee jerk reaction is always to raise taxes to cover these "humanitarian" costs. Somehow I just can't picture a single parent with two children, earning less than $14,436 a year, vacationing on Maui can you? Remember that the next time your property tax bill comes.
 

apdst

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Now, you know damn-good-n-well that there's nothing wrong with stealfromus money being squandered, by the people who need it the most. I mean, look at all the money that the greedy rich folks are making. It's time for the big payoff for the poor folks.
 

Councilman

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

I want to see the details of a forensic audit show exactly who was involved if any fraud, because I don't want some widely seeping legislation to have a drastic negative effect on those people who live within the law and have legitimate needs, and are not gaming a system that is in need of better record keeping, and more stringent tighter rules that are enforced, much better than they clearly have been up until now.

I have been listening to Conservatives from all over California and they paint with an awfully wide brush and talk about his problem like everyone in the system is a criminal and that if totally unfair and premature because we don't have all the facts yet.

I believe that once some changes as I have talked about are in place, and those who are guilty are brought to Justice and at least formally charged, then we will know exactly what and who the hell we are talking about.

I believe in justice not revenge on the innocent out of some form of prestigious against the truly less fortunate.

This may not be sounding too Conservative to some but JUSTICE knows no labels.

Besides like the old adage says, and I paraphrase: “Before you criticize someone, or make blank judgments, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”

Or something like that.
 

Prof. Peabody

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

I want to see the details of a forensic audit show exactly who was involved if any fraud, because I don't want some widely seeping legislation to have a drastic negative effect on those people who live within the law and have legitimate needs, and are not gaming a system that is in need of better record keeping, and more stringent tighter rules that are enforced, much better than they clearly have been up until now.

I have been listening to Conservatives from all over California and they paint with an awfully wide brush and talk about his problem like everyone in the system is a criminal and that if totally unfair and premature because we don't have all the facts yet.

I believe that once some changes as I have talked about are in place, and those who are guilty are brought to Justice and at least formally charged, then we will know exactly what and who the hell we are talking about.

I believe in justice not revenge on the innocent out of some form of prestigious against the truly less fortunate.

This may not be sounding too Conservative to some but JUSTICE knows no labels.

Besides like the old adage says, and I paraphrase: “Before you criticize someone, or make blank judgments, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”

Or something like that.
Are you really a councilman? Were you in Sacramento when Pete Wilson painted everyone hurt on the job as a workers comp cheat? How funny conservatives should NOW want to take things on a case by case basis, my on the job injury happened 47 days too late and got screwed by Pete Wilson's broad brush.

Can you defend spending California welfare money on Maui?
 

Deuce

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Clearly, supporting welfare means you also support welfare fraud.

Just like supporting the military means you support war crimes.
 

Prof. Peabody

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Clearly, supporting welfare means you also support welfare fraud.

Just like supporting the military means you support war crimes.
You can't be talking to me? Are you?

Can you defend spending California welfare money on Maui?
 

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

You can't be talking to me? Are you?

Can you defend spending California welfare money on Maui?
I don't really care which state it is spent in. I'm more interested in what it is spent on. But I'm one of those liberals that supports welfare, so clearly this means I support stealing from rich people and gambling it in Vegas.

Conservative logic.
 

Prof. Peabody

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

I don't really care which state it is spent in. I'm more interested in what it is spent on. But I'm one of those liberals that supports welfare, so clearly this means I support stealing from rich people and gambling it in Vegas.

Conservative logic.
WOW! I commend you for telling us all where your coming from. I support taking from YOU and giving it back to the people that earned it.
 

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Clearly, supporting welfare means you also support welfare fraud.

Just like supporting the military means you support war crimes.
Where did anyone say anything about welfare fraud?
As far as I can tell, all of this was done legally and legitimately.
 

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Where did anyone say anything about welfare fraud?
As far as I can tell, all of this was done legally and legitimately.
Exactly. That's the problem with these benefits cards they hand out now. In a perfect world, they would simply make it easier for the poor to do their day to day spending. However, all it has become is a mismanaged tool for the welfare coffers to be wrongly raided for frivolous spending.
 

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Where did anyone say anything about welfare fraud?
As far as I can tell, all of this was done legally and legitimately.
A single parent with two children must usually earn less than $14,436 a year to qualify for assistance, said a social services official.
Legitimate? How is it a person making less than $14,436 a year with 2 kids ends up gadding about in Hawaii? Maybe they swam there.
 

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

I guess welfare isn't just for families struggling to eat anymore. What good is life without a gambling trip to Vegas. I'm sure life isn't worth living without that Hawaiian vacation paid for by the taxpayers. For some reason the knee jerk reaction is always to raise taxes to cover these "humanitarian" costs. Somehow I just can't picture a single parent with two children, earning less than $14,436 a year, vacationing on Maui can you? Remember that the next time your property tax bill comes.
UPDATE ON THE STORY

State to block access to welfare cards from casinos and cruise ships

Department Director John Wagner instructed the vendor that administers the debit card program to make the changes Monday afternoon, in response to a story that ran in The Times' Monday edition. The move is part of the Schwarzenegger administration's commitment to "rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in these programs" and to ensuring "these resources are going to the people they are intended for," Wagner said.
 

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Day late and $69 Million short if you ask me.
Agreed.

Do you get this worked up with every abuse and waste?
 

Prof. Peabody

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Agreed.

Do you get this worked up with every abuse and waste?
As a matter of fact I DO!
 

satandog

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Just some more quotes to provide some balance. From the original LA Times story.

$69 million in California welfare money drawn out of state - latimes.com

The out-of-state spending accounts for less than 1% of the $10.8 billion spent by welfare recipients during the period covered, and advocates note that there are legitimate reasons to spend aid money outside of California. From the data provided, it cannot be determined whether any of the expenditures resulted from fraud.
Many recipients travel to other states in an emergency such as a death in the family, investigators say. But with government resources scarce, it's difficult to sort those cases from incidents of abuse.
"I think when somebody hears it's in a fancy hotel in Hawaii or Vegas, it's too easy to assume the [welfare recipient] is visiting that place and it wasn't somebody who stole their card," said Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
 

Prof. Peabody

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

Just some more quotes to provide some balance. From the original LA Times story.

$69 million in California welfare money drawn out of state - latimes.com
The out-of-state spending accounts for less than 1% of the $10.8 billion spent by welfare recipients during the period covered, and advocates note that there are legitimate reasons to spend aid money outside of California. From the data provided, it cannot be determined whether any of the expenditures resulted from fraud.
Re-read the story. Money spent on Cruise ships, casinos and on Maui? I'd really like to see all those people making less than $15,000 WITH 2 children traveling to Maui. Common sense tells me money withdrawn from ATM's in a Casino didn't go to buy a Las Vegas key fob. Besides, that's not fraudulent anyway. It would be the other income they must be clearly making and not reporting to go to Maui in the first place.

Many recipients travel to other states in an emergency such as a death in the family, investigators say. But with government resources scarce, it's difficult to sort those cases from incidents of abuse.
I don't know about you, but when was the last time you went to a funeral in a Casino?

"I think when somebody hears it's in a fancy hotel in Hawaii or Vegas, it's too easy to assume the [welfare recipient] is visiting that place and it wasn't somebody who stole their card," said Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
Jessica Bartholow didn't say just how many cards are stolen and being misused. Since a pin number is required, I find Bartholow's excuse far fetched. Besides, if the card was reported stolen it can be shut off before many charges are incurred.

1% being mis-spent on anything other than basic necessities is 1% too much. They receive welfare for those basic necessities of life, it's not intended to be vacation fun money.
 
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satandog

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

1% being mis-spent on anything other than basic necessities is 1% too much. They receive welfare for those basic necessities of life, it's not intended to be vacation fun money.
I am not saying that any of this is a good thing but I do think that it is important to put the numbers into perspective.

The article also seems to be saying that 99% of the money spent on welfare in California is being spent for its intended purpose.

I would be happy to hear about any system involving people and money that is free of fraud and/or waste.
 
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JakeFromWI

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Re: The great California benefits scandal: More than $69m in handouts frittered away

"Millions of dollars of California welfare handouts have been frittered away on gambling sprees in Las Vegas, expensive sunshine holidays in Hawaii and at Disney World in Florida.

More than $69 million in benefits meant to clothe and feed needy families was spent outside California in recent years, making a mockery of the state’s attempts to help the poor."
Single CEO's spend more than $69 million of my potential wages on **** like that all the time. ****, my boss just invited me this year to go to Vegas with him on business because he could write it off. It is inevitable. We talk of the most populous state in the country "wasting" $69 million. This stat ($69m) reflects the whole state from January 2007 through May 2010 WASTING TAX DOLLARS! However no one is pointing out that if CA gives a total of $3b a year in welfare over the course of three years, that adds up to $9b in total. $9b-$69m = $8.931b. So at the cost of "wasting $69m" the rest (statistically ALL of it) was used as intended. Is the author of this post trying to argue that we must discontinue ALL welfare if .7% is spent on fraudulent ends?
 
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