Allyssa goes grocery shopping, and she watches every dime because she was just laid off from her job.
So Allyssa, like thousands of others in a money crunch, downloaded an application for food stamps and mailed it to the DTA — the Mass Division of Transitional Assistance.
Alyssa "Every little bit helps, I mean, it's really hard right now."
Checking her apartment mailbox, she was delighted to get a letter from the state acknowledging her application. Soon after, she got another mailing from DTA. This one included this actual plastic food stamp benefits card with her name printed on it. Then, she got another mailing from DTA, which gave her a special pin number for using the food stamp card.
Alyssa "And I thought that, whoa, if I'm getting the pin for the card, maybe the benefit is going to go through."
Then, Alyssa got letter No. 4 from the DTA, and check it out. It told her never mind. You're not eligible.
One. Two. Three. Four letters from state officials. All to tell Alyssa she wasn't getting food stamps.
And we found the DTA uses your tax dollars to send four pieces of mail, including a personalized plastic card, to each person who will not get food stamps! Last year, that was 49,959 people.
Alyssa "It just seems really really wasteful, especially having a plastic card with my name already embossed on it."
They don't make a phone call. They don't send an e-mail. At .33 cents for this letter, .38 cents for this one, .35 cents for this one, and .33 cents for this one, which means last year, the state spent $64,444 of your tax dollars in postage… just to say no.
Hank Phillippi Ryan"Do you need to send all that mail?"
Atty. Tom Noonan, Massachusetts Division of Transitional Assistance "We happen to think we are doing it in the most cost efficient way." Now, add in the cost of the plastic cards — .34 cents each — that's almost $17,000 more for worthless pieces of plastic that are going to get thrown away.
Add it all together, and that's $81,000.
DTA officials insist that's cheaper and faster than having approved recipients come to one of their 24 offices to pick up the cards and have them activated.
Atty. Tom Noonan, Massachusetts Division of Transitional Assistance "This a way we ensure people get the benefits they're entitled to promptly."
But other states don't do it that way. In Tennessee and Delaware for instance, they send one letter. In Maryland, if you apply online, they reply online.
Hank Phillippi Ryan"If a taxpayer says, 'Are you kidding me?' What would you say to them?"
Atty. Tom Noonan, Massachusetts Division of Transitional Assistance "If they have a better idea, we'd be happy to hear it."
Now, there are some changes in the works. We've learned snail mail could be on the way out for some food stamp communications. DTA officials tell us they're now looking into using e-mail.
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