Because Connecticut’s public housing and food assistance programs are awarded on a need basis, recipients must meet financial requirements in order to receive assistance. Providing inaccurate information to the Connecticut Department of Social Services in order to receive benefits when a household doesn’t qualify, or to increase the amount of a benefit, is fraud and may result in criminal penalties. Additionally, using food stamp funds for non approved items is also an abuse of the system.
Households must meet income requirements in order to receive benefits from the Department of Social Services, and a common type of fraud is to misrepresent a family’s finances in order to obtain, or continue to receive food stamp benefits. Failing to report any source of income – wages, gambling winnings, inheritance – in order to continue to remain eligible for benefits is an act of fraud. Deliberately misrepresenting a family’s size, such as failing to report an absent parent returned to the home, a child moved to another home or claiming children who live elsewhere is also illegal in Connecticut.
Change in Employment
Workers who begin to receive food aid must not reduce the number of hours they work or quit a job without reporting it to the Department of Social Services or they will risk losing their benefits. Those who alter their work schedules without reporting it to the department may lose benefits or, in extreme cases, face fraud charges. Beneficiaries may reduce their hours if they have a legitimate reason, although caseworkers weigh these cases on an individual basis.
Misuse of Funds
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Connecticut Department of Social Services place strict limits on how and by whom food aid funds may be spent. Beneficiaries may not sell their benefits for cash, use them to purchase unapproved goods such as alcohol, tobacco or toiletries or sell cards to be used by another person other than the recipient. In addition to potential criminal charges, beneficiaries who are found to use food aid funds to purchase illegal drugs lose access to the program for two years, and those found guilty of selling their food stamps rather than using them to purchase food will be banned from the program for life.
Penalties for Welfare Fraud
Connecticut law classifies any deliberate misrepresentation of information in order to receive or increase benefits as a crime punishable as larceny. If a person is found guilty of receiving $2,000 or more in fraudulent welfare funds, they face a first-degree larceny penalty, which carries a prison sentence of one to 20 years and maximum fines of up to $15,000. Lesser amounts are prosecuted as second-degree larceny, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and fines up to $10,000.