NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

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June 18, 2013

Patrick encouraged by Senate's welfare system shakeup

(Continued)

“If you’ve tried that and it hasn’t panned out, then come on in,” Barrett said.

Eligible participants in work placement programs would also be given child care in the first year, and employers would receive a state health care subsidy for taking on the employees. After the first year, employers could take the original full-employment tax credit.

Recipients would also be allowed to maintain an “economic independence account” to have some savings for expenditures like first- and last-month rent on an apartment without jeopardizing their eligibility.

A frequent critic of initiatives recommended by Senate Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr on Monday said the system overhaul unveiled by Murray represented a “comprehensive approach” to the issues facing policymakers.

“The bill released today by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and offered by Senate President Murray and others reflects a comprehensive approach that seeks to transition recipients away from dependence on welfare programs and towards sustainable economic independence,” Tarr said in a statement. “The bill also contains some critical reforms to address fraud and abuse, although it does not contain additional reforms that were offered during Senate budget deliberations.”

Tarr said Republicans would offer amendments, calling the bill a “prime opportunity” to address welfare problems.

While Republicans are eager to tackle the issue of welfare reform, the bill’s reception from Senate liberals is more of a question mark.

Asked whether it was time to address welfare system, Sen. Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville) said, “Apparently,” before casting doubt over the prioritization of welfare reform this session.

“I’m not making any suggestions right now. I’m really focused on trying to make sure we have enough money to make sure seniors get home care and little kids get day care,” Jehlen said, adding, “If I had $28 million my first place would be for expanding that and there’s some of that. Eight million is going into child care. That’s good.”

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