June 3, 2013
Boston – Senator Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham) joined his colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives and signed on to a letter urging Chairmen Stephen Brewer and Brian Dempsey and the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Conference Committee to include significant welfare reforms in the budget.
“These reforms present a much-needed safeguard to decrease waste in the welfare system and ensure that benefits are being provided to those individuals who are truly in need of assistance,” said Senator Ross. “Study after study has illustrated the waste and abuse present in the Massachusetts welfare system. It is clear that this issue has been studied enough and now is the time to move forward using these studies’ findings as a blueprint for reform. At a time when the Commonwealth is struggling to increase revenue, welfare reform would be an important step in eliminating inefficient and unnecessary spending.”
The FY14 Budget engrossed by the House of Representatives included reform measures addressing welfare eligibility and abuse prevention which were rendered less effective by the inclusion of two studies to look into the issue of welfare reform further. Similar provisions were advocated for during the Senate budget debates, as well. The need for reform has been amplified by the results of two EBT Commission reports, an audit, and an investigation by the Massachusetts Inspector General. This letter requests that the reforms be included in the final FY14 budget while excluding the two additional studies.
If the Budget Conference Committee currently reviewing the House and Senate budgets votes to remove the two studies, the FY14 budget would include such reforms as:
- expediting the establishment and integration of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ Integrated Eligibility System (IES) with the Department of Transitional Assistance;
- mandating that IES verify Social Security Numbers (SSNs) with at least 9 specific state and federal databases and 20 additional optional databases, to the extent that they are available;
- eliminating the use of numerical identifiers as placeholders for SSNs for periods longer than 3 months;
- immediately phasing-in photo identification on EBT cards for cardholders over age 18, starting 6 months following passage of the bill;
- prohibiting out of state EBT card use, with an exception for states contiguous to Massachusetts
- increasing the potential fines on retailers who are in violation of EBT prohibitions, per the recommendation of the most recent Cashless Commission;
- barring the use of self-declarations as verification of applicant eligibility; and
- implementing an online payment system for rent and utility payments to provide recipients with increased flexibility for bill payment and an additional resource for budgeting benefits, as well as providing the Commonwealth with greater oversight over the use of cash assistance.
Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.