CNS reports on just how inclusive the federal safety net has become.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the federal government helped pay the home air conditioning bills for more than 11,000 dead people, 1,100 federal employees, and 725 convicts in fiscal year 2009.
The payments were made by a $5 billion program known as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is designed to provide federal assistance, administered by the states, to help people pay the energy bills to heat their homes in the winter and cool them in the summer. The funds are disbursed by the Department of Health and Human Services and are distributed based on a formula that takes into account a stateâ€™s weather and the size of its low-income population.
The GAO examined the LIHEAP programs in seven states: Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Michigan, and New Jersey. The agency found evidence of fraud in each state.
â€œOur analysis of LIHEAP data revealed that the program is at risk of fraud and providing improper benefits in all seven of our selected states,â€ reported the GAO. â€œAbout 260,000 applications–9 percent of households receiving benefits in the selected states–contained invalid identity information, such as Social Security numbers, names, or dates of birth.â€
Most glaring among the problems the GAO found were the pervasive payment of LIHEAP benefits to dead people, some of whom, records show, had been dead for quite a long time.