Kansans received over $195,000 in cash public assistance benefits while visiting 38 others states in March. The total cash payments ranged from $3 in assistance paid in New Jersey to almost $127,000 paid in Missouri. There were attempts to receive cash benefits in 3 additional states, but the requests were denied.
Also in March Kansans received $1.9 million in public assistance food benefits in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The total food payments ranged from $156 paid in the District of Columbia to almost $1.2 million paid in Missouri.
In cash and food public assistance the State of Kansas spent over $2 million in out-of-state electronic benefit transfer (EBT) payments during March. This amounts to less the 5 percent of the nearly $43 million overall total. Over 95 percent of the benefits are paid within the state.
Are needy Kansans receiving the benefits they need? Or, is waste and fraud in the system absorbing limited resources from the needy? Waste and fraud are difficult to detect since open records provide limited information and inspection of checks and balances.
NBC Action News investigative report Ryan Kath looked into potential abuse in the use of taxpayer funded public assistance. Kansas Watchdog assisted Kath in the technical analysis of EBT data. See Kath’s report, “Investigation tracks local welfare money spent all over the country, including Vegas and Hawaii.”
Out-of-State Cash Benefits
Summary reports give details of ATM and POS (point of sales, e.g., a grocery store) cash payments in other states.
A scatter plot of POS and ATM payments by state shows most ATM cash payments are $200 or less and most POS cash payments are usually $50 or less.
In general there is no relationship between POS and ATM payments in a state, but the diagram above is a simple way to explore both at the same time.
Two points in the chart above appear to be outliers.
A single POS transaction in Maryland was for $210 in Jan., which is far more than the usual approx. $50 upper limit shown in other states.
In Ohio in Jan. and Feb. there were five ATM withdrawals that totaled $1410, which is an average of $282 each.
These outliers were found in statewide summary data. It’s not clear if additional open records are available to allow further investigation.
Summary statistics reveal accepted vs. denied request rates. In states bordering Kansas the denial rate in Jan.-Mar. ranged from about 12 percent denied in Nebraska to about 19 percent in Oklahoma.
The highest denial rate in a state with more than 10 requests was Iowa with almost 41% denied. In states with fewer than 10 requests high denial rates ranged from 50 percent in West Virginia and New Hampshire (2 requests) to 83 percent in Maine (5 requests) to 100 percent in Alaska (1 request).
Out-of-State Food Benefits
Kansas Watchdog focused only on POS food assistance, which accounts for the majority of the assistance. A small amount of food assistance as part of child care benefits was not analyzed.
POS food assistance varied from about $20 in Idaho to $54 in Alaska per transaction. The average of all states was about $31 per transaction.
In nearby states, Nebraska ($42) and Missouri ($33) were above the average, while Oklahoma ($29) and Colorado ($28) were below the average.
It’s unclear why the denial rate for food assistance is higher in some states than others. For example, the denial rate in New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Utah was about 9 percent wile it was about half that (4.5 percent) in Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico and Oregon.
Idaho has the lowest average transaction amount and the highest overall denial rate.
Geocoded Cash Map
KSHB’s Ryan Kath obtained a file of ATM locations providing Kansans cash assistance during the month of January 2011 but limited to locations in the states of California, Nevada and Florida.
Kansas Watchdog geocoded most of the locations of the ATM payments to create a Google map. Search the map yourself:
View Kansas EBT Withdrawal Locations in CA, NV, FL in a full screen map
One cash payment of $123 was received on Jan. 4 at 11:19 PM on the Las Vegas strip. This was one of six attempted transactions at that location at that time.
All of the cash payments received by Kansans in Nevada were in the Las Vegas area.
- USDA: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: Eligible Food Items
- How to use your Kansas Vision Card
- How to use your Kansas Vision Card for Child Care Benefits
- Investigation tracks local welfare money spent all over the country, including Vegas and Hawaii, NBC Action News, KSHB TV, Kansas City, MO, May 16, 2011.
- Technical analysis of Kansas out-of-state Electronic Benefit Transfer payments, Computer-Assisted-Reporting blog, Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, May 16, 2011.
- Welfare benefits spent outside Missouri: $11,831,392, Missouri Watchdog, April 29, 2011.
- Public Assistance Report, Fiscal Year 2011, Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, March 2011.
Contact: Earl F Glynn, firstname.lastname@example.org, KansasWatchdog.org
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