Happy post-Thanksgiving week to you all, and thanks, weather gods, for reminding us it is, in fact, winter. Man, is it winter.
There are many stories in the papers so far this week with opportunities to do nice things for other people because it’s the holidays and that’s something we do. But there’s one that stands out as being not particularly nice at all: In Clinton County, the Plattsburgh Press Republican reports, 14 people are being charged with welfare fraud in what county Assistant District Attorney Jason Marx told the paper he believes is “one of the biggest welfare fraud sweeps in the history of the tri-county area.” The total amount of fraud, the county District Attorney’s office says in a press release, is more then $105,000. All of those being charged were arraigned in the second half of last month and are awaiting trial. All the charges are felonies.
The instances of fraud are mostly pretty low level — at or below the $4,000 range. A few cases are much more eye catching. These include a Champlain man who’s charged with first-degree larceny after allegedly receiving about $23,000 in reimbursements for mileage from the county; a Mooers man who received about $28,000 in medical assistance after allegedly misreporting his income; and a Plattsburgh women who allegedly was paid $16,585 in medical and SNAP (food stamps) benefits for which she wasn’t eligible.
As the DA points out in the press release, welfare fraud is a particularly serious issue when county budgets are stretched as tight as they currently are, and defrauding the government isn’t exactly classy. It’s also somewhat saddening that out of the three major instances of fraud, one is for medical assistance, and the other is for that and food stamps. Interestingly, both are in flux right now. Food stamps funding was effectively cut as of November 1, and the future of the program isn’t clear as Congress continues to wrangle over the Farm Bill. Meanwhile, as the Affordable Care Act takes effect over the next couple years, we’ll know more about how it’s going to impact the high cost of health care in America.
Maybe those being charged with these crimes are terrible, welfare queen-type people who would steal from the government no matter what (my earlier thoughts about welfare fraud and welfare queens); maybe they’re just people with problems who did something, or a number of things, that basically constituted an ongoing theft from the local government. Probably, they’re somewhere in between.