Florida’s welfare agency fired 31 employees accused of fraudulently obtaining food stamp benefits during Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) spokesperson David Frady confirmed Tuesday that 31 DCF employees had been fired for fraudulently obtaining Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
“Following a standard review of every employee application for D-SNAP benefits, DCF identified applicants who submitted inconsistent information. Thirty-one employees have been terminated or are in the administrative process of being terminated,” said DCF spokesperson David Frady. “These 31 individuals do not meet the high standards we hold more than 12,000 employees to.”
The firings come after the agency conducted an audit of more than 1,300 of its employees who applied for D-SNAP benefits in fall 2017 following Hurricane Irma.
DCF employees were tasked with registering more than 1.2 million D-SNAP applications and responsible for weeding out fraudulent ones. The agency claims these employees prevented $14 million in food stamp fraud at each of the state’s 50 registration sites.
Those found guilty of fraud could face criminal charges, be disqualified from receiving food stamps, and must repay any money stolen.
Florida’s overall participation in the food stamp program rose by 2.5 million in one month between September 2017 and October 2017, and residents often stood in long lines at state registration sites over 45 days to fill out paperwork enabling them to receive the special D-SNAP benefits from the federal government.
The state distributed $1.2 billion in D-SNAP benefits to 7.2 million residents by the end of October 2017.
The investigation is still ongoing, and there is a possibility more employees could face termination or other consequences.