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September 29, 2016

Audit: 2,324 dead people were paid welfare benefits in Pa.

An audit revealed Thursday that Pennsylvania provided welfare benefits for more than 2,000 deceased people over a 12-month period.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale urged the state to do more to ensure public assistance benefits is delivered only to those who need it and prevent wasteful spending.

“Americans have big hearts and clearly some people need assistance. However, when someone gets money that they should not, it hurts those who need it and taxpayers. With state budget dollars strained it is critical to get this right,” DePasquale said.

Benefits are provided by the Department of Human Services (DHS) on Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) or ACCESS cards.

State auditors examined cardholders’ accounts between July 2013 and June 2014. They identified 2,324 people who have been dead at least 60 days received $693,161 during that time.

In one case, a cardholder died in May 2013 but nearly $800 in purchases were made with the card in December 2013 and January 2014.

“What makes this case even more outrageous is that DHS did not refer this inappropriate activity to the state inspector general until we brought it to their attention in July — more than two years after the theft,” DePasquale said.

DHS claimed that policies have been changed as a result of the audit. Secretary Ted Dallas noted that a "significant part of the audit covers a period prior to the Wolf Administration."

However, DHS dispute the amount of incorrect payments. Officials claim that approximately $331,432 was misspent, which represents 0.01 percent of payments under the program.

The audit showed that approximately $3.4 billion is distributed through EBT cards each year.