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Bilking the System?

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A recent Eyewitness News investigation raises the possibility that residents in the polygamist communities that straddle the Utah-Arizona border are bilking the welfare system to the tune of millions of dollars. Beyond that is a concern that state officials may be looking the other way.

Here's what reporter John Hollenhorst discovered:

Of roughly 6,000 residents in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona, more than 2,600 get food stamp benefits. That's about 44-percent of the population, almost 10 times Utah's statewide number of 4.8 percent.

With respect to Medicaid benefits, Arizona wouldn't give Hollenhorst the data, but on the Utah side, he learned that 51 percent of the residents in Hildale get Medicaid benefits compared to 6 percent statewide.

It is estimated it costs taxpayers at least $9 million a year for food and medical benefits claimed by residents in the twin communities.

KSL, and we assume most Utahns, would like to know if the claims are legitimate, or are the communities' large families taking undue advantage of a benevolent system, perhaps illegally? Unfortunately, Utah officials can't say for sure. It seems welfare investigations in the twin towns are rare, at best.

In KSL's view, that should change. The evidence suggests something out of the ordinary is going on, and taxpayers deserve to know what it is.

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