House action increases welfare ‘accountability’

Harold P. Naughton Jr. Legislative View   
Add a commentUpon recently learning of severe flaws and abuse in the Commonwealth’s welfare system, the Massachusetts House took decisive action to deal with an organization in desperate need of reform. Last Tuesday, I joined my fellow representatives in the House in passing legislation that provides for immediate improvement in the benefit transfer (EBT) system and the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)

In addition to previous bans on the use of EBT cards at establishments such as casinos, tattoo parlors, and beauty salons, nine additional measures passed by the House will require:

•A photo ID on EBT cards for each eligible household member over the age of 18;

•Establishing a Bureau of Program Integrity within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to monitor and correct programmatic deficiencies;

•EOHHS will create a computerized integrated eligibility system to monitor eligibility before funds are dispersed;

•A state verification and eligibility task force made up of the State Auditor, Attorney General, Inspector General, Treasurer, and Secretary of Administration and Finance, coordinating efforts with the Bureau of Program Integrity;

•Provision of tax return information to agencies that provide benefit programs;

•Development of a system in which DTA will work with law enforcement agencies to use fingerprinting comparisons in instances of trafficking and fraud;

•Prohibits out-of-state EBT card use;

•Businesses to apply online to accept EBT cards at point of sale;

•DTA will submit its annual report to the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means on or before November 1st of each year.

By implementing stronger oversight measures, DTA can more effectively provide financial assistance for eligible citizens while simultaneously safeguarding against the marginal number of individuals who exploit the system. I am confident that this legislation will stop the waste of taxpayer money, resulting in increased accountability.

Harold Naughton Jr. is a state representative for the 12th Worcester District, which includes Berlin, Clinton, Lancaster and precinct 2 in Sterling.