MIAMI – A federal program designed to help impoverished families heat and
cool their homes wasted more than $100 million paying the electric bills of
thousands of applicants who were dead, in prison or living in million-dollar
mansions, according to a government investigation.
The U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services spent $5 billion through the Low-Income Home Energy
Assistance Program in 2009, doling out money to states with little oversight of
the program. Some states don't verify applicants' identifies or income. For
example, the program helped pay the electric bill of a woman who lives in a $2
million home in a wealthy Chicago suburb and drives a Mercedes, according to the
yet-to-be released report obtained by The Associated Press.
The Government Accountability Office studied the program after a 2007
investigation by Pennsylvania's state auditor found 429 applicants received more
than $162,000 using the Social Security numbers of dead people.
The investigation found HHS paid thousands of dollars to people who were
obviously ineligible for the program.
• HHS paid $3.9 million to 11,000
applicants who used the identities of dead people.
• HHS paid $370,000 to
725 applicants who were in prison.
• HHS paid $671,000 to about 1,100 people
who made more than the maximum income to qualify for the program.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she was "very disturbed" by the