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Forrester working with HHS to curb EBT abuse

CONCORD — State Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced legislation to specify what the cash assistance benefit included on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards may be used for, at the recommendation of the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last year Forrester successfully sponsored legislation to align state law with federal law by prohibiting the use of EBT cards at liquor stores and off-premise licensees selling beer and wine, gambling establishments and adult entertainment venues. However, an audit released by the Office of the Legislative Budget Assistant last month concluded that "these restrictions will likely be largely ineffective and difficult to enforce."

The auditors found that while DHHS could monitor where EBT cards are used there are no means of monitoring what they are used to purchase. Moreover, cash withdrawals at automated teller machines represent 78-percent of the $23-million in EBT transactions, further hindering the agency's ability to ensure that cash assistance is used for the purposes for which it is intended. While the federal government funds the food stamp (SNAP) allowance that is also included on EBT cards, the state funds the cash assistance program.

"That's the challenge and that's the frustration," Forrester said. "There's no tracking system. No way to audit." She that after meetings with local welfare directors and Terry Smith of the Division of Family Assistance at DHHS, she believes that most recipients of cash assistance do not abuse it.

Nevertheless, Forrester accepted the recommendations of the auditors that the Legislature more clearly define the purpose of cash assistance and DHHS promulgate rules restricting the use of cash assistance to them. She said that the new legislation prohibits the purchase of particular products and services like alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets and tattoos that are not essential to subsistence. Following the recommendation of the auditors she expected the restrictions would also apply to those receiving cash assistance by electronic funds transfer (EFT).

Currently the penalties for abusing EBT cards are the loss of the right to use the card for two pay periods for the first offense, four for the second and six for the third and subsequent offenses. Conceding that enforcement will pose a challenge, she said that along with a more aggressive education campaign some consideration will be given to stiffer penalties.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 October 2013 02:53

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Lights On After School today to celebrate program

LACONIA — This Thursday marks Laconia's 14th year of participating in the National Lights On After School Program.

Nationwide, about 28-million children have parents who work outside the home and, were it not for the after school programming, would have no where to go where there is adult supervison. After school programs provide students with a safe and secure place through programs that being when the typical school day ends.

Project-Extra in Laconia joins the national celebration of students, parents, business leaders and adult volunteers who support after school programs for local children.

Each elementary school, said Project Extra Administrative assistant Regine Theberge, will have its own theme at their schools while the Middle School will partner with the Boys and Girls Club.

"The goal is to light up the city," Theberge said, saying all of their community partners will be displaying balloons with glow sticks that will light up in the dark.

One Hundred Seventy Five students enrolled in the School District's elementary-level summer learning programs Director Christine Gingerella told the School Board last week. Of those, 124 children were in the lower grades while 51 were in the upper elementary grades. Overall there was an average daily attendance of 135 students, or 77 percent of those enrolled.

Gingerella said this past summer's programs for the younger children was called Naturally Curious Camp and was broken down into two sections — primary and intermediate.

Every year, said Gingerella, the school district hosts summer learning programs that are designed to supplant the regular school learning curriculum. She said this year the programs were designed to link real-world experiences — both indoor and outdoor — with language, math and science. And make it fun.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 October 2013 02:49

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Strong odor causes stir at Belmont's Heritage Terrace

BELMONT — Firefighters had to temporarily relocate about 20 residents of the Heritage Terrace building off Shaker Road into their community room yesterday after some bleach mixed with other chemicals mixed together and created a toxic environment.

Fire Chief Dave Parenti said the event came when a woman walked into the Fire Department at 8:30 a.m. and told firefighters she had been cleaning in her father's apartment and some chemicals mixed and she wasn't feeling very well.

Parenti said the woman was taken by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital in Laconia for evaluation while other firefighters went to the housing complex for the disabled and elderly to evaluate the chemical vapors.

He said the smell was fairly acute on the second floor so firefighters brought all of the residents into the downstairs community room so the entire building could be ventilated.

Parenti said the toxic compound appeared to be bleach and some kind of lavender hand soap. He said the chemical reactions had stopped by the time firefighters arrived and they only had to ventilate the building and remove the bleach from the apartment.

He said he notified the N.H. HAZMAT Team and they determined the fire department personnel was able to take care of the problem.

All of the residents were back in their individual apartments at 10 a.m. and no one was injured. He said the woman's father had been staying in her home for the day while she cleaned so he wasn't effected by the fumes.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 October 2013 02:46

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Young man who ran from Gilford police held on cash bail

LACONIA –— The Sheridan Street man who was apprehended after a brief foot chase with Gilford Police Tuesday was ordered held on $1,000 cash-only bail after his video appearance in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.

Gilford police officer Kevin Baron stopped the car Austin Brue, 20, was driving on Lake Street Tuesday afternoon because it had no plates. Brue ran from police and sprinted across the Shaw's Supermarket parking lot. He was apprehended by a second Gilford officer.

He is charged with resisting arrest, disobeying an officer, and operating after his license was suspended.

In a separate matter, Brue, was also charged with unlawful possession of alcohol and for producing a driver's license that belonged to another. Those offenses allegedly occurred on September 28, in Gilford and police had an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

Police affidavits filed in that case said Brue was a passenger in a car being driven by another. When a Gilford detective stopped the car because it's driver was allegedly involved in a theft from Gilford Mobil Mart, Brue was in the back seat and there were open containers of alcohol. Police said Brue, who is 20, had alcohol on his breath and produced someone else's license to show he was old enough.

When the driver was back at the police station for the theft, the police said he told them Brue was really someone else. The detective said he thought he recognized Brue and later checked with some booking photos from previous encounters with him.

Using that information, police were able to get a warrant for his arrest.

Affidavits also said Brue had two additional bench warrants for his arrest on separate charges of receiving stolen property and willful concealment.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 October 2013 02:31

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