NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 18, 2013

Patrick encouraged by Senate's welfare system shakeup

(Continued)

The Plymouth Democrat said laws need to be revisited from time to time and there are unintended “loopholes” in the system that need closing, but she said she does not consider her focus on the issue to be a reflection of her career coming full circle as her tenure as president winds downs.

According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, total state spending between 1995 and 2013 on the TAFDC grant program, or Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children, has dropped from $992 million to $315 million when accounting for inflation. Murray said the welfare reforms of the mid-1990s helped reduce caseloads by half from a high of 103,000 families to a low of 49,000 families.

DTA reports that 50,846 families were receiving TAFDC benefits in April, and there were 498,000 Massachusetts families receiving federal SNAP benefits, or food stamps. In fiscal 2013, DTA expects to spend $119.9 million on administration and $654 million on program benefits.

Murray said she spoke to Patrick about the bill last Friday, and delivered a copy to his staff yesterday morning.

“We’re still reviewing it, but based on the bullet points we have it’s actually quite encouraging,” Patrick told reporters. “It emphasizes that welfare is or ought to be a way forward, not a way of life. It gives to the DTA some additional tools and some resources to deal with some of the concerns we all have around program integrity, but obviously we want to look at the bill and evaluate it but the bones of it look pretty good.”

Murray has fast-tracked the Senate welfare reform bill with debate scheduled for Thursday and amendments from senators are due tomorrow at noon. DeLeo met with Murray and Patrick yesterday afternoon, and said he hadn’t yet read the Senate bill.

“I think we need to take more immediate action to address some of the ills of our DTA and I think that that’s the best way to do it is to do those as quickly as possible,” DeLeo said about incorporating some reforms in advancing budget bills.

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