COLUMBUS—State Representative Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) is expressing concerns that the welfare fraud operations, like those bustedl ast week by law enforcement authorities in Southwest Ohio, “could be much deeper than we first thought.”
The raids were a culmination of an 18-month investigation into a $2 million operation where food stamp cards were being exchanged for cash and drugs, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. At least 12 suspects were arrested in Butler County.
As reported by the Enquirer, the investigation even documented an incident where food stamp cards were exchanged for heroin in the presence of a two year old child. It was reported that many similar transactions have occurred near parks and schools.
“Children are trapped in these abusive situations where a parent is diverting taxpayer and family funds to illegal drug use,” Schaffer said. “The Ohio General Assembly needs to step up and protect these kids.”
Representatives Schaffer and Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) introduced House Bill 298 earlier this month to address the issue of drug-induced poverty plaguing families in Ohio’s human services benefits system.
In their press conference announcing the legislation, Schaffer and Maag cited a 2015 survey of Ohio’s Job and Family Services Department county directors, who said the number-one barrier to cash assistance recipients getting jobs is “substance abuse or inability to pass a drug test.”
“This Southwest Ohio investigation has provided sobering evidence that welfare fraud and the illegal drug market are thriving in our neighborhoods, and they sometimes go hand-in-hand,” Schaffer commented. “This is a real problem and we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening.”
“News reports say the perpetrators took $2 million – hard-earned taxpayer money that is supposed to feed hungry families and turned it into a drug delivery service,” Schaffer said. “Heroin is killing Ohioans at a record pace, and we need to look at creative ideas like House Bill 298 to tackle this problem.”
House Bill 298, which will create a three-county pilot program to study drug abuse in Ohio’s human services delivery system, is expected to receive House committee hearings this fall, Schaffer said.