Lottery winners who continue to cash in on food stamps are being targeted by the U.S. Senate in a crackdown being applauded by Bay State welfare fraud fighters who say the reform is long overdue.
In Massachusetts, lottery winners are not reported to welfare officials.
"It's a fantastic move," said Beth Bresnahan, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts State Lottery. "We need to make sure benefits are going to people in need."
The Lottery scrubs all winners who rake in $20,000 or more a year by sending their names to the state attorney general's office, the state Department of Revenue and the Office of the State Auditor -- but not the state Department of Transitional Assistance.
That could all change if the U.S. House of Representatives adopts the U.S. Senate version of the almost $100 billion farm bill.
"If you win the lottery, you shouldn't get food stamps," said state Rep. David Linsky, chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee. "Any steps the federal government takes to root out fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is welcome."
Linsky's committee is probing abuse in the state welfare system, with hearings set for Monday with state Auditor Suzanne Bump and Tuesday with DTA Commissioner Stacey Monahan.
The hearings follow last month's shocking audit by Bump's office showing millions in welfare benefits going to more than 1,100 dead people. Linsky's committee is also investigating the $100,000 in welfare benefits given to the family of marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The farm bill, passed 66-27 by the U.S. Senate last week, also calls for blocking college students from collecting SNAP benefits if their families are not considered low income; targeting retailers who traffic in EBT cards and forbidding liquor stores and tobacco shops from accepting food stamps.
Most of the farm bill -- an estimated 80 percent -- goes to food assistance for the poor in America -- a bill that keeps soaring.
The passage targeting lottery winners comes after two Michigan winners were caught trying to cash in SNAP benefits after becoming instant millionaires.
In one case, the 59-year-old winner of a $2 million "Make Me Rich" game in Michigan in 2010 still used his food stamp card. Last year, a 25-year-old woman who won $1 million in the same game also continued to use her food stamp card.
It is not known if any Massachusetts winners collected welfare.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said this week he is in favor of the new farm bill, yet others are calling for more cuts and reforms.