Massachusetts House approves welfare reform bill

The Senate approved the bill last week

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The House voted unanimously Monday to approve a package of welfare reforms intended to both prevent benefit fraud and abuse and to deliver supports to public assistance recipients with the goal of moving them off the rolls and into jobs.

The Senate approved the bill last week and final enactment votes in both branches are expected Monday, which would send the bill to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk before the end of the day.

The bill creates a program to connect “able-bodied” individuals with full-time jobs before they start receiving benefits and revives a “full employment program” aimed at placing benefit recipients in full-time jobs.

Employers who hire individuals from the full-employment program would become eligible for a health care subsidy for one year followed by a tax credit of $100 per month up to $1,200, under the terms of the legislation.

The bill also requires the Department of Transitional Assistance to have specialists assigned to help high-risk recipients, and calls for the development of a program to allow benefit recipients to save money, outside of the asset limit of $2,500, toward first, last and security rent payments and for education as they transition off public benefits.

The duration of benefit extensions would be reduced, under the bill, and lawmakers are also looking to require that self-declarations of residency be signed under the penalties of perjury, to ban self-declarations from being used as the only verification form of eligibility, and to increase penalties for store owners who knowingly allow the purchase of prohibited products or services, such as Lottery tickets, with an EBT card. Under the latter measure, store owners could face license suspensions.

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