Turzai Spearheads Historic Welfare Reform Effort
7/12/2007
Amendments offered by House Republican Policy Committee pass the House
 
Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), House Republican Policy Committee chairman, applauded the final passage of House Bill 83, citing it as the first step to reforming Pennsylvania’s welfare system. The Policy Committee, under Turzai’s direction, has held a series of hearings since January investigating welfare fraud and poor welfare-to-work performance on Pennsylvania’s part. His Policy Committee convened a Welfare Reform Task Force of members last December that have continuously met to put forth a package of proposals to help root out welfare fraud.
 
“These proposals are the first step in improving a welfare system that is in dire need of reform,? Turzai said. “Over the past four years, the Department of Public Welfare’s (DPW) budget and caseloads have ballooned to out-of-control proportions. The current system allows for rampant fraud and keeps recipients trapped in a cycle of dependency. Moving people from the welfare rolls to family-sustaining jobs has been a main goal of House Republicans. 
 
“We need to make sure that we have policies in place that promote welfare-to-work participation and that whittle out welfare fraud activities. We need to make sure that while the truly needy are served, we are also making the best use of our taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars and that we are spending money that actually help people improve their lives without people becoming dependent on government.?
 
  • For the 2007-08 fiscal year, Pennsylvania is projected to spend more than $23 billion in state and federal monies for welfare.
  • In the past four years, 360,000 Pennsylvanians have been added to the welfare rolls, increasing the total number to 1.9 million residents receiving assistance.
  • In Pennsylvania, one in every 10 people now receive welfare assistance.
  • Last fall, when the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) was being reauthorized, Pennsylvania ranked dead last in welfare-to-work participation rates, and needed to improve its welfare-to-work participation rates by 220 percent in order to meet federal standards.
  • It was recently revealed that there was an over abundance of fraud within the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
  • It has also been recently revealed that DPW could face a penalty of up to $800 million for the misallocation of federal Title IV-E foster care funds.
  • Retired Office of Inspector General employees testified before the House Republican Policy Committee that there was rampant fraud in Pennsylvania’s welfare system and fraud avoidance measures passed by the House today would have a positive impact on the reduction of welfare fraud.
 
House Bill 83, as amended, aims to root out welfare fraud by:
  • Requiring a photo be placed on welfare recipients’ Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. 
  • Establishing Pennsylvania’s Income Eligibility Verification System (IEVS). IEVS is a computerized system that matches applicants’ and recipients’ Social Security numbers with 19 different federal and state databases.
  • Putting into effect residency requirements for County Assistance Offices (CAOs). Under this legislation, a person may only apply for welfare benefits at his/her nearest CAO.
  • Requiring DPW to submit the Pennsylvania Work Verification Plan, quarterly reports, annual reports and any other data submitted to the federal government regarding the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to the state treasurer, inspector general and officers of the General Assembly, and also post this information on the Department’s website.
 
Reps. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre), Steven Cappelli (R-Lycoming), Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster), Brian Ellis (R-Butler), William Gabig (R-Cumberland), Mauree Gingrich (R-Lebanon), Glen Grell (R-Cumberland), Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango/Butler), Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), Fred McIlhattan (R-Clarion/Armstrong), Dan Moul (R-Adams), Rob Kauffman (R-Cumberland/Franklin), Scott Perry (R-York/Cumberland), Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), Tom Quigley (R-Montgomery), Kathy Rapp (Warren/Forest/McKean), Dave Reed (R-Indiana), and Douglas Reichley (R-Berks), Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), Dick Stevenson (R-Mercer/Butler), as well as Turzai, make up the Welfare Reform Task Force.
 
The House Republican Policy Committee has held several public hearings throughout the state on the issue of welfare fraud and reform. The committee members have heard testimony from welfare experts on both the federal and state level. 
 
The legislation passed the House with a vote of 197 - 1. House Bill 83 will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.
 
 
Rep. Mike Turzai
28th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

(412) 369-2230
Contact: Tricia Graham
House Republican Public Relations
(717) 260-6296
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2007