The trio talked about a host of local issues, ranging from supporting senior citizens to affordable housing to local aid during the hourlong debate held at the Wiggin Auditorium at City Hall. A sizable crowd lined both sides of the street beforehand holding signs in support of all three candidates.
The debate was sponsored by The Salem News and the Peabody Chamber of Commerce.
A major talking point of the evening revolved around abuse of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards across the state.
“I can’t believe that the technology doesn’t exist that we can’t implement controls that allow for more efficiency out of the EBT program and eliminate the fraud and the waste that goes on with the few who abuse it,” Gravel said.
Griffin Dunne said there needs to be more control over what people buy with the cards.
“Fraud is always going to exist, and I think that we should have vigorous prosecution of anyone who participates in the fraud of the EBT card,” she said. “That includes people who are trading them, using them improperly and businesses who are allowing improper purchases.”
Cole disagreed that only a few are abusing the system and recommended that photo identification be put on the cards so they can’t be sold.
“The problem is we are not doing the proper checks, looking into the people who are applying for these benefits, we’re not looking into their Social Security numbers, we are not looking into their employment to see if they even qualify,” Cole said.
Griffin Dunne said her most important role as state representative will be constituent services.
“I know that one of the first things a legislator will face going to Boston is the budget, and I am going to do that,” she said. “However, my first priority is going to provide constituent services to the people of Peabody.”