This isn’t breaking news, but definitely newsworthy. Does anyone remember back in October, on the 15th to be exact, when two Walmart stores in Louisiana had to foot the bill for crazed EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer, or food stamps on a debit card) shoppers after a computer glitch caused limits on EBT cards to be temporarily removed?
A little background info… Xerox Corp. is the vendor for EBT cards – after a backup generator for Xerox failed that day, EBT users had no limit on their food stamp card at Walmart stores in 17 different states. The two stores in Louisiana stand out, though; most of the other stores chose to turn away EBT users for the duration of the problem. Leave it to Louisiana to trust the good of mankind. What they got in return was an abundance of EBT cardholders checking out of stores with eight to 10 carts full of food. Walmart reported that in some cases there was more than $700 worth of groceries per purchase. Wow! It was a shopping spree provided by the workingman.
Apparently the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services does have a protocol for such instances, which is to limit all EBT cardholders to a $50 limit in the case of an emergency. I guess Walmart didn’t know about it, and the shameless EBT abusers didn’t care…
A police chief in Springhill, La., said that the incident was worse than Black Friday and left no food on the shelves, or meat in the freezers and the grocery part of Walmart was completely decimated. I suppose that left those who were actually paying for their groceries out of luck.
Well, here we are a month to the day later and the EBT abusers have stocked pantries and full bellies and now the Louisiana governor has decided it’s time to do something about it. Earlier this week he announced that his administration was going to pursue those who used the glitch in the cards to go on a shopping spree. Good for him! Those who are found to have misused the system could lose their food stamps for a year, for first time offenders, and more if it’s a second or third time offender.
I think most of you will agree when I say that Americans are generous to a fault. We trust that those who are on assistance actually need assistance. Which is why when I read about the EBT abusers in Louisiana my skirt got a little ruffled. Talk about taking advantage of your fellow man.
I like to stop at one of our local gas stations every once in a while and grab a fountain Diet Pepsi. It never fails EVERY time I’m in there someone is ahead of me buying Red Bull or Monster, gum, bags of chips and the like with their EBT card. Are those necessities? I can completely understand a trip to Aldi, Price Chopper or Walmart to put groceries in the cart to feed your family with, but Red Bull?
After I learned how Louisiana’s EBT cardholders took advantage of the system and after I thought about how it irritated me to see countless people “purchasing” non-essential items with their food stamps I did a little research to find out just how much of my hard earned money was going to help them.
I like round numbers, so please don’t think this is specific for me. A married couple with one child who makes $50,000 a year will pay $36.82 a year in taxes to food and nutrition assistance programs and to help ensure that the food stamp program is fully funded. Other programs include the school lunch program and special supplemental food program for women, infants and children (WIC).
Now I know that $36.82 a year doesn’t sound like much, but imagine how many married families in the U.S. with one child make $50,000 a year, and each of those families is paying the required $36.82 a year. The number is astronomical. Do I have a problem helping out? Absolutely not! My problem lies within the abusers in Louisiana and the Red Bull lovers at the gas station. I suggest there be stricter guidelines on what EBT cardholders can purchase and at what locations the cards may be used. A loaf of bread at the gas station costs twice as much as it does at the grocery store, yet EBT users can still purchase bread at said location.
I’m a realist; I know that life isn’t fair and that everyone needs a leg up at some point—heck, it could be me one day. I don’t want children to be hungry and I know that it’s a national problem, but I also know that not all people are honest and there’s probably no way we will ever weed out all of the bad ones. But stricter guidelines and stiffer penalties for abusers would be a great place to start.
By Jae Juarez • firstname.lastname@example.org