State Lawmakers Tackle Public Assistance Fraud

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State lawmakers are taking on a system they say is full of abuse and costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

A bill that would clamp down on public assistance fraud is now working its way through the state capitol, with the goal of putting con artists out of business.

Senate Bill 152 would implement regulations and penalties on public assistance fraud in Alabama, which touches areas such as food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, and public housing. Lawmakers told WHNT News 19 that thousands of people cheat the system every year by lying on applications and then receiving entitlements they don't qualify for. The bill would also make it a felony offense to defraud state entitlements by any amount greater than $200. State Rep. Mike Ball (R) of Madison is one of the bill's co-authors.

"People will always find a way to game the system," said Rep. Ball. "We have to make sure that only those who need it [public assistance] get it...It's one of those things that is probably a lot bigger than the number of investigations and cases being made primarily because the law is inadequate to make those kinds of cases."

The bill has already passed the Senate and now awaits a vote in the House. State Sen. Arthur Orr (R) of Decatur is the other co-sponsor.