June 10, 2013
Boston –With the Senate scheduled to debate a major welfare reform bill on Thursday, the Senate Republican Caucus is preparing to offer a series of substantive reforms that will strengthen the bill and provide significant new tools to alleviate fraud, waste and abuse.
“We are taking advantage of the opportunity before us to have a real debate on welfare reform, to strengthen the bill and to get meaningful reforms that will achieve real results,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), who noted that many of the reforms contained in the proposed bill released by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Monday have long been considered priorities by the Caucus and have been offered as amendments as recently as last month during the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget debate.
“Our Caucus has been steadfast in its commitment to welfare reform, and we are going to persist until the job gets done,” said Senator Tarr.
Tarr, along with Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Minority Whip Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) and Ranking Senate Ways and Means Committee member Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) plan to file several amendments before Wednesday’s noontime deadline, including proposals to:
- Impose mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients who are arrested or convicted of a drug-related crime, and remove cash benefits for those who test positive for drugs;
- Eliminate cash benefits for high risk users, as recommended by The Ripples Group in its December 2012 report, a proposal that mirrors language included in last year’s Senate budget requiring direct payments for rent and utilities that was later vetoed by Governor Patrick;
- Ensure that people who are in the country illegally cannot displace people who are here legally on the waiting list for state subsidized housing, similar to the policy used for federally subsidized housing;
- Suspend the liquor and Lottery licenses of those businesses that repeatedly allow prohibited items to be purchased with EBT funds;
- Require non-EBT card holders using cards on behalf of another to be identified, given prior authorization and have their use of these cards tracked;
- Require all waivers and extension requests to go through the DTA Commissioner’s Office by taking these decisions out of the hands of caseworkers; and
- Direct DTA to develop and implement an inventory control system for EBT cards.
“We have been awaiting the opportunity for a full and formal debate on welfare reform, and it appears that we will have that debate on Thursday,” said Senator Tarr. “We want to leave no stone unturned in the quest to restore integrity and accountability and transparency to the welfare system on behalf of the people who truly need and deserve benefits and the taxpayers who pay for these benefits.”
“It is clear from the proposed Senate Ways and Means bill that our Caucus’ steadfast efforts to reform our broken and wasteful welfare system has started to pay off,” said Senator Hedlund. “We need to finish the job during Thursday’s debate and give the taxpayers of Massachusetts lasting reform that is meaningful and effective. The final welfare reform bill must ensure tax dollars are being used to help our veterans, elderly and families in need and not wasted on fraud and abuse. Only then can we begin to restore the integrity of this very important service of state and local government.”
“We need to ensure that all who possess EBT cards use them responsibly, and in the fashion and spirit in which the taxpayer would hope was intended,” said Senator Ross.
“The Department of Transitional Assistance was never intended to become a crutch; it was intended to help people empower themselves,” added Senator Knapik. “That is what we are looking to do again. By amending the current proposal, we can create a program of high integrity that provides people with the pathways to jobs and ultimately self-sufficiency.”
Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.