June 20, 2013
Boston – Senator Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham) voted today to pass legislation aimed at improving the Commonwealth’s welfare system. The legislation follows a State Auditor’s report and Inspector General’s report detailing significant waste and abuse in the system, including over $3 million in improper disbursements to ineligible beneficiaries. The legislation contains numerous measures intended to counter the abuse and fraud that has plagued the system in recent years, and to increase economic opportunities for recipients.
“This legislation is a significant step forward in tackling the waste and fraud that has distressed the Commonwealth’s welfare system,” said Senator Ross. “Not only will these reforms strengthen and enhance the integrity of the system, but they will provide helpful resources for recipients to access employment opportunities and increase their financial independence.”
The legislation tackles the issues of fraud and waste in the welfare system from multiple angles. Seeking to limit the practice of trafficking EBT cards, the legislation requires photo identification be added to all EBT cards by August 2014. Applicants will be required to demonstrate that they have conducted a job search prior to receiving benefits. The bill also seeks to increase the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)’s and Commonwealth Corporation’s efforts to match recipients with employment.
The Senate adopted 2 of Senator Ross’ proposed amendments designed to strengthen the documentation and monitoring requirements employed in the system. The Senate passed an amendment of Senator Ross’ that requires increased scrutiny of extensions granted to assistance recipients. The Inspector General’s report uncovered numerous individuals receiving benefits for periods of time far longer than the standard 24 month period lacking any documentation of the extension. This requirement gives the Commissioner’s Office the sole responsibility for making extension determinations and mandates that the basis for the extension be included in writing.
Senator Ross’ amendments also presented certain directives related to reporting and administration in DTA. The Senate unanimously passed an amendment mandating that all required reports be submitted to the legislature by their due date, and be made available to the public via the internet.
Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.