BOSTON (WWLP) - The state Legislature has approved a state budget and separate midyear spending bill that include welfare reforms designed to root out fraud. But a third and more comprehensive welfare bill approved by the state Senate awaits action from the House of Representatives. Governor Deval Patrick says he supports improving the welfare system, but may wait before giving his approval on the welfare measures.
"Whether I support it in the supp budget or in the more comprehensive bill that the Senate has worked on and is now in the House is something I haven't resolved yet," said Patrick.
The mid-year spending bill requires all newly issued electronic benefit transfer cards to have photo identification and an anti-fraud hotline and website printed on them. It also creates a task force to study welfare verification and eligibility standards. The 2014 state budget creates a Bureau of Program Integrity to oversee the welfare system.
"I think there is a desire to do it now because there are dollars at stake, precious taxpayer dollars and no one wants to tolerate for one day longer than they have to, these kind of breaches in the public trust with regard to how the welfare system operates," said Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester).
But some state lawmakers prefer to be patient, like the governor, when it comes to changes to the law. Orange state Representative Denise Andrews says research on EBT card photo ID shows that the costs outweigh the benefits.
"When I look at what we're working on, we are taking care of business. I have not seen the data that supports that this is a cost-effective and overall effective approach," said Rep. Andrews.
The House of Representatives won't be debating the Senate's comprehensive welfare reform bill until the fall.