Stephens Welfare Reform Bill Passes House

A bill sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) to reform a welfare program that has been abused by people defrauding the system has passed the House by an overwhelming 159-29.   

“This is a significant move toward protecting taxpayer dollars,” said Stephens, whose legislation was part of a larger welfare reform package offered by House Republicans called the WelFAIR (Fairness, Accountability, Integrity and Responsibility) plan.     

The legislation introduced by Stephens transforms 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 rife with abuse. 

“We found recipients who took money without applying it to a job search,” Stephens said.  “There was virtually no accountability. Making this a loan program reduces the incentive for fraud and ensures only those actually motivated to find work receive the funds.”   

In one case, a recipient received $6,848, in part, for books for classes she was taking, though an audit found she paid twice for the same books when she retook the classes.   In other cases, a recipient received $2,200 for four redundant tool purchases over an eight-month period, while another recipient received $1,650 for special allowances for clothing over an 18-month period.   

“We can no longer ignore such fraud,” Stephens said. “We must guarantee the taxpayer that only those who need our help receive it.”  

After numerous audits exposed welfare abuse and inefficiency in programs operated under the Department of Public Welfare, the House Republican caucus developed eight bills to reform the state welfare system. 

The bills in the package 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. 

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.  

“We cannot ask the School Districts in the 151st District to do more with less while footing the bill for a welfare system riddled with waste, fraud and abuse,” Stephens said. 

State Representative Todd Stephens
151st District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  David Foster  

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