Stephens Sponsors a Key Bill in Welfare Reform Package
4/6/2011

Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) has sponsored one of the key bills in the Republican House WelFAIR (Fairness, Accountability, Integrity and Responsibility) plan, a package of legislation designed to improve the integrity of the state’s welfare system.  

 

“At a time when we are asking everyone, especially our schools, to do more with less, we must reform our state welfare system, which is rife with fraud and waste,” Stephens said.

 

Following reports over the last several years chronicling welfare abuse and inefficiency, the House Republican caucus developed eight bills to reform the state welfare system.

 

To reform the welfare system, the legislation would: require photo identification be used to make sure benefits aren’t misused, cross reference welfare applicants through 19 different databases to confirm eligibility, strengthen legal penalties for those who commit welfare fraud, and  prevent applicants from “benefit shopping” in other counties.

 

These proposals were introduced following Republican Policy Committee hearings and audits from Democrat Auditor General Jack Wagner that exposed various examples of welfare fraud.

 

Also, the package would reduce abuse in a program that helps people truly in need get to and from doctor and other medical appointments, prohibit the purchase of tobacco with welfare benefit cards, and require those convicted of drug felonies to submit to random drug tests when applying for welfare benefits.

 

The legislation introduced by Stephens would transform a fraud-laden special allowance program from grants to a loan-based initiative.  This grant program was created to help welfare recipients cover the expense of transitioning to work but the Auditor General found the program to be wrought with abuses.

 

“Too often recipients would take the money without applying it to a job search,” Stephens said.  “There was little accountability. Making this a loan program reduces the incentive for fraud and ensures only those actually motivated to return to the work force are receiving these funds.”  

 

One recipient in Philadelphia received special allowance payments for child care for 10 children.  One provider paid for watching five of the children turned out to be the kids’ father.  He simply changed his name and Social Security number to collect $7,367.

 

Another recipient received $6,848, in part, for books classes she was taking, though an audit found she paid twice for the same books when she retook a class.

 

Other examples of waste targeted by Stephens’s bill include the recipient who received $2,200 for four tool purchases over an eight-month period; in another a recipient received $1,650 for special allowances for clothing over an 18-month period.  .

 

“We can no longer close our eyes to this abuse. We must ensure those who need our help are receiving it and provide accountability to our taxpayers,” Stephens said.

 

State Representative Todd Stephens

151st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  David Foster           

215-744-2600
RepToddStephens.com
Facebook.com/RepToddStephens

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