There has been a lot of talk lately about Gov. Paul LePage’s report that welfare benefits on EBT cards have been used at places such as smoke shops, bars, sports pubs and strip clubs. Democrats and Republicans agree that this is a gross waste of taxpayer money and definitely needs to be addressed.

Fixing the problem, however, doesn’t seem to be LePage’s goal.

First, by looking at the data, it appears LePage is purposefully overstating this problem. Welfare fraud occurred in only an estimated 0.2 percent of total EBT transactions, meaning that taxpayer money was used suitably 99.8 percent of the time.

Second, it is unclear how bad some of these “violations” actually were. For example, many local liquor stores also sell regular food as well. I have bought milk and chips at liquor stores myself, though I am not even 21.

Third, not all the money on EBT cards is paid by us taxpayers. For example, child support money also can be put on the cards.

It is also difficult to track the purchases made using these cards. Sometimes the EBT card “use” was in fact used as a withdrawal of cash — some smoke shops and liquor stores have ATMs, and EBT card holders can use them to withdraw cash. ATM withdrawals and “cash back” after purchases both can be made with an EBT card. Just because the liquor store or smoke shop is your closest ATM doesn’t mean you’re a crook.

Most importantly, however, despite all his public announcements and blaming, LePage has yet to put forward a plan to address this issue. It seems to me LePage is doing this only to score political points as he begins his campaign for re-election.

Cecil CareySkowhegan

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