Judicial Watch • Welfare Program Pays Felons’ Energy Bill

Welfare Program Pays Felons’ Energy Bill

Welfare Program Pays Felons’ Energy Bill

JULY 08, 2010

In yet another fraud-infested welfare program to assist low-income residents with energy costs, the government has paid the air conditioning bills for thousands of dead people, convicted felons and federal employees.

The $5 billion Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) supposedly helps the needy pay energy bills to heat their homes in the winter and cool them in the summer. The taxpayer dollars are distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services based on a formula that considers a state’s low-income population and weather.

Similar to another welfare program—known as weatherization—designed to make houses energy efficient, LIHEAP has virtually no oversight to assure public funds are properly spent. As a result the severely mismanaged program is infested with waste and corruption that is costing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars.

Details are offered in a report published this week by the investigative arm of Congress known as the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In a sampling of several states—including Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia—investigators found that Uncle Sam paid the air conditioning bills for more than 11,000 dead people, 1,100 federal employees and 725 convicts in 2009 alone.

Thousands of applicants who received the benefit used fake Social Security numbers or bogus names to qualify, investigators found. Most of the deceased had been dead for years yet the government paid their air conditioning bill with no further inquiries. One example features an Ohio applicant who used the name of a person who had been dead for more than four years to get hundreds of dollars in benefits.

Among the federal employees who got the welfare benefit are two Chicago postal workers with annual salaries that exceed $80,000 each. One of them admitted that she didn’t really need the assistance but simply wanted “free money.” Most of the 725 convicts who got the cash were still in jail when the money came in, according to the GAO.

This deplorable waste of public funds in the name of helping low-income residents with energy costs is all too familiar. The multi billion-dollar weatherization program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is rife with fraud and corruption. The goal is to make the homes of poor folks more energy efficient with free insulation, sealing and even new central heating and cooling systems. Some even get new refrigerators, water heaters and furnaces.

Instead tens of millions of dollars have gone to local “community groups” that spend the money on gift cards for their employees, Christmas decorations and to pay parking tickets. Most subcontract their buddies to do the actual work, which in most cases has been seriously flawed. In Wisconsin the husband of a charity employee that received weatherization funds got $10,000 worth of U.S. taxpayer-financed work on his home. Regardless, President Obama keeps pouring money—including a $5 billion stimulus infusion—into the scandal-plagued program.

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