Welfare Reforms Begin Restoring Integrity to a Broken System
By Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana),
chairman of the House Majority Policy Committee
In my time as a state legislator, I have come to learn that Pennsylvania residents are some of the most caring folks one could ever hope to meet. Especially during difficult times, people are always willing to lend a hand in their community.
Unfortunately, some are quick to take advantage of this generosity. In no case is this more evident than when people defraud tax dollars by abusing the state’s welfare system.
In recent years, documented instances of fraud have tainted our welfare system and far too often public assistance is being manipulated into public dependence.
From stories of drug dealers accepting welfare benefits as compensation for illegal drugs to an individual using a fake Social Security number to collect $7,000 in welfare funds to babysit his own children, the system has proven to be rife with fraud and abuse.
These sorts of egregious cases led my colleagues and I to unveil a sweeping reform package aimed at restoring integrity to Pennsylvania’s public welfare system. These efforts recently culminated in the governor signing into law the most comprehensive welfare reforms this state has seen since the mid-1990s.
Pennsylvania is now one of only a handful of states in the country to require drug felons to submit to drug tests before receiving welfare benefits in addition to random testing for those currently in the system. After all, tax dollars should be used to fight drug abuse, not subsidize it.
The state will now also be required to cross reference applicants’ Social Security numbers with a 19-point check list to verify eligibility. This supports the notion that the best way to fight fraud is to prevent it before it occurs.
A glaring loophole in the system that had previously allowed for “benefit shopping” – where individuals could apply for assistance in the county with the most generous benefits – has been closed. Applicants are now only eligible for benefits based on their county of legal residence.
Addressing what has arguably been the most fraud-laden program within our welfare system, we have also imposed new restrictions on the special allowance program that will help cut its costs by up to 25 percent.
While these changes will weed out those who aim to defraud the system, they will more importantly protect those who truly need and deserve assistance. Further, they represent a concerted effort to reduce welfare spending.
The objective of our public welfare system has always been to serve as a safety net and a bridge to self-sufficiency. That objective has been lost in recent years, and it is our responsibility to refocus.
Hopefully, through future commonsense reforms, we will be successful in this effort and once again restore integrity to Pennsylvania’s welfare system.
State Representative Dave Reed
62nd District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Dan Massing