HARRISBURG – Today the House approved a bipartisan proposal that would help prevent trafficking of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and sent it to the Governor to be signed into law, according to the bill’s sponsors, Senators Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Judy Schwank (D-11).
Senate Bill 1127 would create stronger penalties against individuals and businesses that unlawfully trade goods or services in exchange for SNAP benefits. The legislation creates a new penalty for the fraudulent trafficking of SNAP benefits in an amount greater than $2,500.
Under the bill, an individual who is convicted of SNAP trafficking could be found guilty of a second-degree felony and be required to pay restitution of up to three times the amount of the fraud they committed.
“We need to do more to deter perpetrators who prey on vulnerable state residents by buying SNAP benefits for pennies on the dollar and using the proceeds for their own personal benefit,” Aument said. “Creating tougher penalties against SNAP trafficking will help hold these unscrupulous individuals accountable for the damages they cause.”
“When SNAP benefits are misused, the families who really need those benefits suffer,” Schwank said. “This will strengthen the state’s ability to interrupt and catch black-market trafficking of SNAP benefits, and is vital to instilling confidence that public funds are not abused.”
Last year, the Office of State Inspector General (OSIG) uncovered a scheme involving a Harrisburg restaurant trading drugs for EBT cards and buying thousands of dollars of supplies from a food wholesale club to be resold for profit. The plot involved the fraudulent use of nearly 60 different SNAP recipients’ benefits.
The legislation would also allow the Inspector General to report SNAP traffickers to local and state licensing entities to pursue debarment. The bipartisan bill was introduced at the request of OSIG.
Senate Bill 1127 was approved by a unanimous vote in the Senate in June.