Dear Editor,

A few months ago, I received a letter from the Health Department telling me I had been approved for a “bridge card”. Now some people think of a bridge card as the Holy Grail, the key to a more comfortable life. If they acquire one, they consider themselves successful in life. We hadn’t applied for a bridge card but someone supposedly living at our address was approved for a card. I called the Lapeer Health Department and told them of the error. They said it probably was a key stroke error and it would be investigated. Two weeks later we received a bridge card with our address and someone else’s name on it. So much for the investigations. It wasn’t all that difficult to locate the individual who applied for and was granted a bridge card. With three high-end vehicles in the drive and a trailer loaded with toys they haul up north on weekends for recreation. I thought to myself, do they really need our money to pay their bills?

A while ago I took over the shopping chores from my wife. My first encounter with a bridge card holder was in the check-out line in local markets. Ahead of me in line was a well-dressed lady in her fifties with a cart heaped with groceries and topped with 4 large bouquets ($15 each) of cut flowers. To my surprise she whipped out a bridge card, the balance on the card wasn’t enough to pay the bill so she whipped out a credit card to complete payment. I looked at the puny $8 bouquet in my cart for my wife and asked myself, where did I go wrong making my life choices? You have to ask yourself, if someone can afford $60 of cut flowers should they qualify for a bridge card and our tax dollars?

I discussed bridge cards with local store managers, on average 10% of sales are purchased with bridge cards. What surprised me–when the cashier rings up a sale with a bridge card they can see the balance on that card. I was told they have seen balances upwards of $4,000 on some cards. I’ll bet that’s a larger balance than the average working-class family has in their checking account. Some store employees feel the range of products that can be purchased with a card is far too broad. Many of the store employees seem to think the “WIC” (women, infants and children) program to be more selective as to what products can be purchased ensuring mothers and children are properly nourished at each stage of growth.

I wonder how many bridge cards have been issued? If 10% of groceries are purchased with bridge cards, does that indicate 10% of the population possess a card? Entitlements would be the second largest expenditure of the national budget (if we had a budget). We have to get serious about reducing government spending, we need to review all aspects of government spending including entitlements we need a national budget again. Forecasting and operating within the constants of a 12-month budget is no easy task. In the real world your job depends on your ability to function within the constraints of a budget, not so in our government.

Are the Health Departments staffed at the level necessary to monitor for possible fraud and misuse of cards? You and I all want transparency in all of our branches of government. The health department should post names of bridge card holders on their websites, this would allow feedback from the public for possible misuse.

It’s our tax dollars and I believe we have the right to know where those dollars are going. We Americans are known for our generosity to our own and others, but we don’t appreciate being taken advantage of. Do we want transparency in our bridge program?

— Tom Janicki