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San Diego County Finds More Welfare Fraud

Audio

Aired 5/13/10

A state auditor’s report shows San Diego County uncovers more public assistance fraud then other large California counties, but the county also investigates a disproportionately high number of welfare and food stamp applicants.

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— A state auditor’s report shows San Diego County uncovers more public assistance fraud than other large California counties. But the county also investigates a disproportionately high number of welfare and food stamp applicants.

CalWORKS used to be known as welfare. On average, the program provides about $500 per month in financial aid to families in need. Under state law, counties must investigate fraud in social services programs such as CalWORKS and food stamps. A state auditor’s report shows San Diego County investigates and uncovers fraud in disproportionate numbers relative to other counties in the state. In 2008, the county denied, discontinued or reduced the largest number of CalWORKS applications: more than 4200.

John Baier from the state auditor’s office says that San Diego County made up about 5 percent of the state's CalWORKS caseload in 2008, but accounted for 17 per cent of all the early fraud referrals.

The county has long been criticized for making it difficult for people in need to access public assistance. The district attorney’s office says it’s the county’s policy to investigate all new CALWORKS applicants for possible fraud. And they say they find it in nearly 25 percent of all applications.

“Every applicant goes through an eligibility interview with HHSA and then is referred to us," says John Haley, the lead investigator with the DA’s fraud division.

The state auditor's report also found San Diego County outranks all of the other counties in cost effectiveness. For every dollar it spends on investigating CalWorks, it saves $2.60 over a three-month period.

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