NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 18, 2013

Patrick encouraged by Senate's welfare system shakeup

(Continued)

DeLeo said it could take “a little while” for House leaders to review the Senate bill if it is approved, and that he expects the House would be amenable to some of the ideas that could be addressed later in a separate bill.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer said the leadership bill would direct “in excess of $20 million” in new spending to workforce training and transitional assistance programs, including $3.3 million to hire 50 new DTA caseworkers, $1.3 million for employment training services, $300,000 for an independent audit of welfare programs, $8 million for child care vouchers and $5 million in the first year to implement photo IDs by August 2014.

“Meaningful reforms also require meaningful investments. It’s not as easy as the rhetoric seems,” Brewer said.

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, who helped draft the bill and has sat on a commission exploring ways to improve EBT benefits, said the Senate did not want to address welfare reform in a “piecemeal” fashion by tackling some items in the budget.

“Putting a picture on a card is not going to completely diminish the fraud that goes on in Massachusetts or what appears to be fraud in Massachusetts and it has to be part of a comprehensive plan,” Flanagan said.

The Senate also did not include a House-recommended provision allowing DTA to use fingerprints to verify eligibility in cases where there are questions about an applicant’s identity.

Sen. Michael Barrett, a Lexington Democrat, said the bill would make needed updates to the way DTA looks at recipient assets, including the elimination of the $5,000 limit on the value of a family’s car. Barrett said this change will allow recipients to have reliable transportation to get to and from work.

He also called the new requirements that an applicant prove efforts to find a job before becoming eligible for assistance “common sense” and said the changes should not be seen as “punitive.”

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