Last week I voted in favor of comprehensive welfare reform in the Massachusetts Senate. I voted to pass this reform because I believe our state needs an effective and accountable way to provide welfare benefits to those in need. By correcting several inefficiencies in the current welfare system, the Senate’s legislation enables Massachusetts to provide an adequate public safety net that minimizes the risk of fraud and misuse.
The reform package takes significant measures to guard against potential abuse within the welfare system. It requires all Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to bear the recipient’s photo and mandates that all welfare recipients provide proof of Social Security identification. These are common sense policies that are long overdue here in Massachusetts. By requiring sufficient proof of identity, the welfare system will ensure that those who need assistance are not competing for funds with those who do not.
Additionally, the Senate legislation will enact strict work requirements for any resident who is applying for public benefits. Prior to receiving welfare support, an applicant will be required to provide proof that he or she is actively seeking employment opportunities. This provision will help tailor our welfare system into one that fosters work and self-sufficiency.
As our state recovers from the current recession, it is especially important that we continue to provide a public safety net for those who are experiencing hard times. Compassion and concern for our neighbors dictate that we do so. However, we must also make sure that Massachusetts provides this public assistance in a way that is fair and is designed only to help those who are in genuine need. The reform package passed this week by the Senate accomplishes this task, and, for that reason, I gave it my full support.
Joan B. Lovely of Salem is the state senator for the Second Essex District.