BOSTON – State Representative Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing legislation that provides immediate funds for reforms to the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system and the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).
The bill updates EBT oversight measures included in the FY ’14 budget and advances continuous efforts by the House to address and prevent EBT abuse. The legislation also allocates supplementary funds for existing appropriations and projects.
“I congratulate Chairman Dempsey and the House Ways and Means Committee for their work on this important bill,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “EBT reform has been a top priority of the House for many years and I’m proud we were able to take immediate action to again further our efforts. Through this bill we are affirming our commitment to stopping fraud while supporting those who need it most.”
“This supplemental budget will ensure funding to safeguard statewide programs that provide integral support to vulnerable segments of the population, like the Hotel/Motel Emergency Shelter program for homeless families, the newly created home modification grant program for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings who have lost limbs, and the Summer Jobs program. Funding is also included to meet our obligations for the Snow and Ice Removal program,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey, (D-Haverhill) Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means. “Additionally, under the leadership of Speaker DeLeo, the House continues to make strides in addressing the issue of fraud and abuse in the EBT system. We implement strong, targeted policies that establish oversight of the Department of Transitional Assistance and require thorough verification procedures while rooting out anyone abusing public benefits.”
“Having co-sponsored five bills to improve the EBT system, I am delighted we passed legislation on such critical measures,” said DiZoglio. “I want to thank Chairman Dempsey for his exemplary leadership in ensuring this long-overdue reform, designed to target EBT abuses while also continuing to support the Commonwealth’s most important programs, comes to fruition.”
Since 2011 the House has enacted numerous welfare reforms including prohibiting certain purchases using EBT cards and criminalizing the use of an EBT card in any manner not authorized by law. The new legislation includes the following measures:
• Requires a photo ID on EBT cards for each eligible household member over the age of 18 and establishes a timeframe for implementation;
• Establishes a Bureau of Program Integrity within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to monitor and correct deficiencies in the programs administered by the office;
• Requires the EOHHS to create a computerized integrated eligibility system to monitor eligibility before funds are dispersed;
• Establishes a state verification and eligibility task force made up of the State Auditor, Attorney General, Inspector General, Treasurer, and Secretary of Administration and Finance. The task force will coordinate efforts with the Bureau of Program Integrity;
• Allows for the sharing of tax return information with agencies that provide benefit programs;
• Requires the development of a system in which DTA will work with law enforcement agencies to use fingerprinting comparisons in instances of trafficking and fraud;
• Prohibits out-of-state EBT card use, except in states contiguous to Massachusetts;
• Requires businesses to apply online to accept EBT cards at point of sale;
• Requires the DTA to submit its annual report the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means on or before November 1st of each year.
In addition to the welfare reform measures, the bill authorizes $56 million for road-clearing bills, $10 million for the summer jobs program and $13.5 million to cover the costs of state and municipal elections. This legislation also provides funds for victims of the marathon bombing to help modify their homes or move into more accessible housing.
The bill now moves to the Senate.