Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced today -- Sunday, Dec. 4 -- that his administration is investigating multiple incidents of possible fraud against the state by individuals, including state employees, who received federal benefits from the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or D-SNAP, after Tropical Storm Irene.
Malloy also directed Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby to complete a systematic audit of irregularities in the applications for the emergency aid, according to a press release from Malloy's office.
Malloy directed Bremby to deploy DSS’s anti-fraud staff to conduct systematic reviews of applications from the general public, as well as applications from state employees, as part of the D-SNAP investigation.
"This initiative brought in $12.4 million in additional federal food benefits for Connecticut residents and the Connecticut economy after Tropical Storm Irene," Bremby said. "We operated the program by the federal rules, which did not require any immediate verification of income or assets."
Program More Vulnerable to Fraud
"However, our ongoing investigations are underscoring the point that federal acceptance of the 'self-declaration' of income and assets makes the program more vulnerable to fraud," said Bremby.
Malloy called the situation an outrage and offensive.
"The idea that someone would use the occurrence of a devastating storm as an opportunity to defraud a public program is an outrage," said Gov. Malloy. "The fact that some of this potential fraud may have been perpetrated by state employees makes this situation that much more offensive. One of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to ensure proper and honest conduct by its own employees. Unfortunately, we are finding examples of conduct that, if fully substantiated, could result in dismissal or even prosecution."
The Appearance of Impropriety
"I want to be clear that, at this point, I am only dealing with the appearance of impropriety," said Malloy. "Each incident will be thoroughly investigated before action is taken against any individual. But I also want to make it clear to the residents of Connecticut that I will not tolerate abuse of public programs by state employees. If warranted by a thorough investigation, individuals will lose their jobs and may face criminal prosecution."
Federal D-SNAP funding was made available to low-income Connecticut residents who incurred disaster-related expenses from Tropical Storm Irene, including loss of income, temporary shelter costs and property repairs.
While state employees may be eligible to participate in the D-SNAP program, an initial review of several applications found that some of them came from employees with incomes that exceed the program’s income requirements, according to the press release.
"If any of these state employees are indeed guilty, I am disappointed beyond words," said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman. "This is a program for people in need and for their children. To abuse this program is not only a crime, it is nothing less than a moral outrage."
Nearly 24,000 Connecticut residents were found eligible for the D-SNAP benefits during the September 21-27 application period.
As administered by states, the federal D-SNAP program is intended to provide food assistance to households not already in the SNAP program (also known as food stamps), and who had at least one disaster-related expense from August 27 through September 25, while meeting income and asset eligibility requirements.