Chafee releases results of “Block” report

Dee DeQuattro

With reporting by Abbey Niezgoda

Governor Lincoln Chafee released the redacted results of a report that reveals widespread waste and fraud in Rhode Island social service programs including medicaid and food stamps.

Chafee along with Executive Office of Health & Human Services Secretary Steven Constantino and Department of Health Services Director Sandra Powell announced the results of the report conducted by former gubernatorial candidate and moderate party chair Ken Block's software company Simpatico.

The report indicated a number of problems. In some instances due to outdated software people who had passed away continued to receive EBT benefits for many months after their deaths and the benefits were being used. The Department of Health was not notifying the Department of Health and Human services in a timely manner but Simpatico says the issue has recently been resolved with the introduction of a new protocol.

Another instance of fraud included 60 prison inmates who were enrolled in the food stamps program while in prison. Records indicate that the EBT cards were used in stores while the person was incarcerated. The Simpatico report says many of the inmates may have been involved in Food Stamp trafficking, that is selling their benefits to others to use.

The report further revealed that some retailers were engaging in retailer trafficking by purchasing EBT cards and using them to restock their shelves.

Other records show individuals abusing food stamps on gourmet meats and store owners stocking their shelves with money from EBT cards.

“The challenges of eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse are in every state in the country, and here in Rhode Island my administration has been addressing them since my first year in office,” said Chafee. “We have included state budget funding for the Office of Program Oversight and Integrity. We have met frequently with state and federal law enforcement. We have been working with the federal government to expand the state's jurisdiction and ability to investigate.”

Chafee also unveiled a package of four pieces of legislation aimed at cutting back on waste, fraud and abuse of social services.

The report has been the cause of turmoil in the state for the past few days.Chafee initially said he did not want to release the results of the report because he did not want to compromise efforts being taken to resolve the issues. Common Cause Rhode Island and the RI ACLU pressured the governor to release the results arguing that the results are public records.

Chafee said he has been committed to stopping fraud in Rhode Island since taking office. Click here to see a timeline of his efforts.