Welfare reform bill moves out of conference committee

Massachusetts Senate delays vote on welfare bill

BOSTON (WWLP/AP) – A conference committee released two welfare reform bills aimed to tackle years of abuse and fraud within the welfare system.

“Making sure the resources are there to do the investigations are the one thing, but to make sure that laws and the penalties are there to back it up,” said Senator Jim Welch (D-West Springfield).

One bill would tighten up the welfare system by keeping closer tabs on EBT cards. Store owners who knowingly allow EBT purchases of prohibited items such as alcohol, cigarettes and Lottery tickets would face tougher penalties. Preventing welfare fraud is not the only goal. The two bills focus on moving low-income families off public assistance and into full-time jobs.

“We want to make sure that every person that has an opportunity to get off of welfare, we provide training and incentives to do that,” said Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre).

The second bill would dedicate $15 million to create a program that would connect welfare recipients with full-time jobs before receiving benefits. It would also revamp the state’s “full employment program” that puts current recipients to work. Employers could see tax incentives for hiring low-income workers full-time.

Late Thursday evening, the Massachusetts Senate delayed the vote on the compromise welfare overhaul bill. Senate Republicans pushed for the weeklong delay Thursday, noting the bill’s final language wasn’t released until late Wednesday.

They said they needed more time to review the legislation.


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