CHICOPEE,Mass. (WWLP) – This is a story that originally aired on November 20, 2012, as part of a 22News I-Team investigation. See the continuing coverage with an update airing Tuesday, May 6th at 11:00 p.m.
Massachusetts’ EBT recipients can withdraw up to $500 in cash every month, but 22News found loopholes in the system.
22News I-Team reporter Ryan Walsh discovered there’s nothing stopping someone from taking out cash and spending it on just about anything.
“We have over $400 million a year spent on this program. 85% of that money is taken out in cash and we can’t keep track of it.”
An EBT or Electronic Benefit Transfer Card is simply an ATM or Debit card that gives people on welfare their money. The 22News I-Team discovered that on average, $25 million in EBT money is taken out in cash in Massachusetts every month.
Our 22News I-team investigation reveals in July alone there were 5 EBT Cash withdrawals for a total of $480 dollars at this Plaza Liquors in Chicopee. There’s no way to prove how the people actually use the money, but in the same plaza, a Walmart, an ATM and a Chicopee Savings Bank.
“There’s no restrictions on the cards, there’s no way to stop someone from getting cash at any ATM.” State Representative Shaunna O’Connell served on the state’s EBT Commission earlier this year. Representative O’Connell was the only commission member of 8 to vote in favor of eliminating cash benefits.
Dan Curley is the Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner. He wasn’t available for an interview but sent us this statement: “We are committed to working with our partners and stakeholders to continue to improve program integrity to protect the system for those families who need it.”
Our I-Team investigation reveals money is being taken out not just at liquor stores, but at places like off track betting locations and its possibly being used for bail. The 22News I-Team obtained a copy of a Boston police report. In April, a man was arrested for selling heroin. The police report says during his phone call he said “GET MY EBT CARD AND GO TO THE ATM AND GET THE MONEY TO BAIL ME OUT”.
“There are people that use it the right way and that’s great, but unfortunately there are a lot of people that don’t use it the right way and that really detracts from the integrity of the