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Beacon Hill Votes on Welfare Issues

Votes of local representatives and senators on roll calls from the week of June 17-21.

MUST PROVIDE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (H 3514)

House 48-102, rejected an amendment to a provision that reduces from the current six months to three months the amount of time any applicant can collect welfare benefits without a social security number. The amendment is stricter. It would deny benefits to applicants without a social security number except for those who fall into three categories: Children under one year old, pregnant women in the third trimester of pregnancy and individuals seeking political asylum would receive three months of benefits.

Supporters of providing three months of benefits to applicants in these categories said allowing a three-month waiver for all applicants without a social security number is too large a loophole. They noted that it provides three months of free benefits to many applicants who are gaming the system because they don't have and never will have a social security card.

Amendment opponents said the overall reduction from six months to three months for all applicants is sufficiently strict and leaves some room for flexibility since there are many different legitimate reasons for not having a social security number. They argued that limiting benefits to the three categories is far too restrictive and unfair.

Rep. Sheila Harrington Yes

MUST PROVE RESIDENCY (H 3514)

House 44-104, rejected an amendment prohibiting "self-declaration of residency" from being accepted as a valid form of residency verification for people seeking taxpayer-funded benefits from the state.

Amendment supporters said self-declaration is a giant loophole that has allowed gaming of the welfare system. They noted that this has led to people even sending in self-declaration forms from prison.

Amendment opponents said the declaration is signed under the pains and penalties of perjury and is not allowed as the sole identification. They said eliminating self-declaration would also violate federal law.

Rep. Sheila Harrington Yes

FRAUD BUREAU (H 3514)

House 40-112, rejected an amendment creating a welfare fraud hotline for use by police officers and requiring a newly created fraud bureau to respond to the calls. The amendment also would allow the bureau to investigate program violations, conduct hearings, determine penalties and ensure penalties are enforced.

Amendment supporters said that some police officers have said they report welfare abuse but are often ignored. They said this amendment will enhance reporting and expand the power of the bureau to investigate and impose penalties.

Amendment opponents said the bureau's job is to ensure that administrators are doing their jobs. They said it is not intended as another avenue for reporting and overseeing violations.

Rep. Sheila Harrington Yes

AUDIT WELFARE (H 3514)

House 46-107, rejected an amendment requiring the state auditor to audit the welfare department.

Amendment supporters said the system needs an outside independent audit that is not performed by welfare personnel.

Amendment opponents said a newly created fraud bureau will be conducting audits.

Rep. Sheila Harrington Yes

WELFARE CHANGES (S 1805)

Senate 37-1, approved a bill making many changes in the state's welfare system. The measure requires photos on Electronic Bank Transfer (EBT) cards, a victory for long-time advocates of this requirement. It also mandates that applicants search for a job prior to receiving cash assistance. Current law gives recipients a 60-day window after they start receiving benefits before they are required to look for employment.

Other provisions include reducing the amount of time any applicant can collect welfare benefits without a social security number from the current six months to three months; increased penalties for illegal trafficking in EBT cards; reducing from 30 to seven the number of days a welfare recipient is allowed to be out of state before he or she loses his or her benefits; and increasing from 60 to 66 the age at which recipients would be exempt from the work requirement.

Supporters said this long overdue overhaul of the welfare system is firm, fair and honest and will crack down on welfare abuse while offering many poor people a road to economic independence.

The lone opponent took issue with several of the changes, including the controversial photo ID requirement. She said the bill goes too far and will hurt many families and elderly and disabled persons.

Sen. Eileen Donoghue Yes

Beacon Hill Roll Call By Bob Katzen

Volume 38 - Report No. 25

June 17-21, 2013

Copyright © 2013 Beacon Hill Roll Call. All Rights Reserved.

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