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The proposed rule is aimed at preventing electronic benefit transfer (EBT) transactions at specified locations and for certain types of purchases determined to be inconsistent with the purpose of the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP) and Kinship Care Subsidy Program (KCSP). Both programs provide cash assistance to help pay for a family's ongoing basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing.
"Today's rule helps ensure that the assistance being received is being used for the purpose intended - to help a family meet their basic needs," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "Today's rule does not impact or hurt families who are using the benefits as intended each month, but instead target those who use the funds for purposes never intended by the program. This rule puts in place the type of accountability expected by the public, and is simply just common sense."
Sonnier said that around 43,000 EBT transactions are processed each month for FITAP and KCSP.
Recipients who violate the rule will have their benefits stopped for 12 months on the first offense, 24 months on the second offense and permanently on the third offense. DCFS will rely on retailers and the public to help report suspected fraud, as well as randomly review monthly transactions for possible use at prohibited locations.
The rule also puts Louisiana in compliance with the Middle Class Relief and Job Creation act passed by Congress in February 2012 which prohibits the use of benefits in liquor stores, gaming establishments and adult-oriented entertainment establishments. The rule issued by DCFS is expanded to prohibit the purchase of tobacco, alcohol or lottery tickets at any retailer. States have until February 2014 to implement the Federal government's guidelines or face a financial penalty of 5 percent of the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant.
In January 2013, there were 5,350 households receiving FITAP assistance totaling around $1.1 million. In order to receive FITAP, you must be a single or disabled parent with children. The average payment in Louisiana is $195 per month. There were also 3,042 households receiving $1.3 million in KCSP benefits, with an average payment of $413 a month.
To apply for benefits or for more information on FITAP, KCSP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), visit www.dcfs.la.gov/cafe.
Individuals who suspect fraud in FITAP, KCSP, SNAP or CCAP cases are encouraged to call DCFS' toll-free hotline at 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578) and select option 7 from the main menu or by visiting www.dcfs.la.gov/ReportFraud.