Wonder what you would find if you frisked college campuses all over the state of Michigan?
Answer: Bridge Card abuse.
Bridge Cards are an electronic version of food stamps that are issued by the Department of Human Services (DHS). A lot of students, who are not dependents of their parents, are eligible to receive government assistance because they have a so-called “low income”. Some students claim they need them in order to survive fiscally through school. Unfortunately, this is not true and many of these students are abusing the system. Not only do they use the Bridge Card to purchase an unnecessary amount of food, but some also use it to purchase alcohol and cigarettes with the money they are able to get back with it.
Who pays for this abuse? The taxpayer.
Fortunately, a Michigan lawmaker has named college student fraud in the food-aid program as a top priority in the coming year. The Lansing State Journal reports:
Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, who last month became chairman of a House subcommittee overseeing the budget for the state Department of Human Services, named college student fraud in the food-aid program as a top priority in the coming year.
Though Agema is not sure how many college students are abusing the program statewide, he said he fears the state is wasting millions of dollars annually to provide the aid to students who don’t need it. Bridge Card recipients use the card as kind of an electronic version of food stamps, and critics say students of well-heeled parents are using the aid to pay for food and using their spending money for booze and parties.
“It’s an epidemic,” Agema said Tuesday at a committee hearing. “You can get this just by (applying) on the Internet.”
Agema spent much of last year criticizing suspected Bridge Card fraud among college students, and, in October, the State Journal reported anecdotal accounts from mid-Michigan store owners suggesting that fraud among college students was widespread in the region.
In recent weeks, Agema said, he has heard from many parents in his House district who say they are astonished their child is receiving the aid in college even though the parents are paying for all expenses.
Last year, the DHS reported that at any given point during the 2009-10 school year, 10,000 to 18,000 college and university students were receiving food assistance (at a maximum of $200 per month each).
Agema said he hoped the state Inspector General would begin a series of “sting operations” this year at retailers statewide to uncover the fraud that may be taking place.
According to a 2008 report from the Office of Inspector General, Michigan lost $17.3 million during a three-year period (2006-2008) from users abusing the system. Unfortunately, that number has probably grown since 10,000 to 18,000 college and university students are receiving food assistance.
Bridge Card abuse is a problem that Michigan lawmakers need to crackdown on. Michigan has one of the worst economies and the second highest unemployment rate in the United States. Not only are these students hurting the people who actually need the assistance, the abuse is also contributing to Michigan’s $1.8 billion budget shortfall. Eliminating the fraud is an absolute must.
Side-Note: As a recent college graduate, I have seen a lot of Bridge Card abuse on Michigan State’s campus. Sadly, a few of these individuals are my friends. Interestingly enough, those individuals are liberals. The same ideology that thinks I stand for the wealthy and discriminate against the poor. Meanwhile, these liberal friends of mine are milking the welfare system and hurting the people they claim to be for… Hypocrisy at its finest.