By: Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives
BOSTON – Following a press conference that Senate President Therese Murray held Monday morning, the Senate is due to take up a comprehensive welfare reform bill on Thursday aimed at making state assistance transitional. The bill addresses cyclical issues that prevent recipients from transitioning off of welfare as well as identifying real measures in preventing fraud. The bill includes measures such as:
1. Requires that photo identification be added to electronic benefit transfer, or EBT cards by August 2014.
2. Requires the welfare fraud hotline number be issued on all newly issued EBT cards.
3. An employment search program that includes incentives for businesses who participate, as well as a public private partnership.
4. Technology upgrades that will enable real time authenticity of applicants, as well as requiring applicants sign under the pains and penalties of perjury.
5. Valid social security numbers will be requires and reduces the time allowed for recipients to leave the state and continue to receive benefits.
6. Increases work requirement exemption age from 60 to 66.
7. Reduces the allowable benefit extension beyond the 24 month benefit period from 6 months to 3 months.
State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives had filed legislation in January and testified in support of Senate Bill 61, “Act Relative to Welfare Reform” which would require electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards bear recipients’ photographs on the cards in order to assist in confirming identity.
A key component of O’Connor Ives’ proposal is for the Department of Transitional Assistance to utilize the Registry of Motor Vehicle’s system as a repository for photos in order to save cost.
In early February, the Inspector General released a report finding that an estimated $25 million in welfare funds has gone to individuals ineligible to receive those monies and State Auditor Suzanne Bump released a report just last week that highlighted a total of $2.39 million in benefits were distributed to the deceased.
“When fraud results in the misuse of these resources there are two groups on the losing end-the people that genuinely need transitional assistance and the taxpayers who’ve lost confidence in the process.
This bill takes essential steps necessary to combat fraud in the system while still assisting those that truly need this assistance such as elderly, disabled and children,” O’Connor Ives said.