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June 19, 2013

Senate proposes changes in welfare

(Continued)

The bill would give the Department of Transitional Assistance access to data from other agencies in determining welfare eligibility and would require that applicants who declare their own eligibility do so under penalties of perjury. In no case would a self-declaration be the only verification of an individual’s eligibility.

All welfare recipients would be required to obtain permanent Social Security numbers within three months of receiving benefits, and the bill would fund more fraud investigators and caseworkers within the welfare agency.

While declining to comment on specific provisions, Gov. Deval Patrick said he was encouraged by the Senate proposal.

“It emphasizes that welfare is, or ought to be, a way forward, not a way of life,” Patrick told reporters prior to a meeting with Murray and House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

One of the chief architects of the bill, Sen. Michael Barrett, said the proposed welfare changes aren’t meant as punitive but are common-sense measures liberals and conservatives can agree on.

“Before you even go on welfare, and ideally as a substitute for it, we’re going to first ask you to look for a job on your own,” said Barrett, D-Lexington.

To help avoid the cliff effect and remove incentives for people to stay on welfare, recipients who find a full-time job would be allowed to retain child care vouchers for up to one year.

Families would be allowed to exempt more of their assets from income eligibility limits, including the value of one car and any money earned by a teenage household member in a part-time job.

The bill would also earmark $15 million to provide health insurance subsidies to private-sector employers who make a commitment to hiring low-income people to keep them off welfare.

“It is not cheap,” Senate Ways and Means chairman Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, said of the bill. “But in the long run, it’s an investment.”

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