Republican state Sen. Leland Christensen, who represents Alta, Wyoming, has introduced a bill intended to prevent welfare fraud. The bill passed its first round in the state Senate on a 28 to 2 vote, but it will head back to the floor again, according to Jackson Hole News and Guide.
“The idea here is to tighten up the monitoring and verify with more frequency,” Christensen told the Jackson Hole News and Guide.
Although there are already significant checks to prevent welfare fraud, the bill would allow the state to tap a private contractor that would more vigorously check welfare applicants. The bill wouldn’t impact the 100,000 people on Medicaid or those receiving health services, just those who are under the jurisdiction for the Department of Family Services, reported WyoFile.
However, some are opposed to the bill because welfare fraud is uncommon — in 2015, Wyoming had 12 welfare fraud cases that cost the state $277,000.
“We have prosecuted, I would say, eight cases in the last year for fraud big enough for us to take to prosecution,” Family Services senior administrator Brenda Lyttle told the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, according to WyoFile.
Community Resource Center executive director Mary Erickson said much of the effort to stamp out welfare fraud is about “villainizing the people who are most in need,” as opposed to addressing the causes of poverty, reported Jackson Hole News and Guide.
“For me it’s about continually going after the most vulnerable people in the community,” Erickson said, according to Jackson Hole News and Guide. “The people who come to see us have real need.”
Christensen is one of the many Republicans vying for a seat in the House of Representatives.
Nationwide, welfare fraud is uncommon. According to SNAP to Health, the percentage of people abusing the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as SNAP, nationally is less than 4 percent.