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Welfare Reform legislation proposed in Harrisburg

HARRISBURG – To help contain costs and bring about real reform to Pennsylvania’s welfare system, Reps. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne) and Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Da...

HARRISBURG – To help contain costs and bring about real reform to Pennsylvania’s welfare system, Reps. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne) and Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin) announced a package of bills to give more Pennsylvania families an opportunity to improve their quality of life, while tackling waste, fraud and abuse from within the current system.

“While the Commonwealth continues to face harsh economic realities, the citizens are demanding greater accountability for how their tax dollars are being spent,” said Kaufer. “Welfare expenditures have become one of the most expensive items in the state budget. The major challenge is to separate those who are truly needy and eligible for state assistance from those who are not and are taking advantage of taxpayers.”

“After the budget experience my House colleagues and I just went through, I believe we need to work on bringing cost-saving measures to the forefront of our legislative priority list,” Tobash said. “Additionally, this package of bills builds on the understanding that work and strong families are the foundation on which we will build our future. We need to help people gain independence, not continue a life of dependence. We thank the members of our leadership team who have focused on this issue in the past, and are happy to be working on this issue again in 2018.”

Kaufer and Tobash specifically focused on three of the bills in the package at a Capitol press conference on Tuesday, including the following:

• House Bill 1659, sponsored by Tobash, would prohibit the Department of Human Services from applying for waivers of the work requirement for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. The bill would require able-bodied adults without dependents to work, perform community service, participate in a work program or be enrolled as a full-time student in order to receive SNAP benefits.
• House Bill 1788, sponsored by House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), would eliminate the extended Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits beyond the five-year time span, known as E-TANF, and would establish a cumulative 48-month lifetime limit.
• A bill not yet introduced, to be sponsored by Kaufer, would establish a pilot program that encourages companies to hire individuals receiving welfare. It would allow TANF recipients to continue to collect their welfare benefits, plus a wage for a 20-hour week. The pay is graded after six months until after one year the individual is paid for a full 40 hours of work at which time the benefits are eliminated.

Benninghoff stressed the importance of reforming Pennsylvania’s welfare system. “The reforms we announced today will help restore integrity to Pennsylvania’s public assistance system,” he said. “Government has a responsibility to take care of those who need help. However, we have an equal responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are not being abused by people who would attempt to defraud the system.”

Tobash shared testimonies of individuals who sought assistance from Pennsylvania’s welfare system. However, with the help of federal and state work initiative programs, these people now have family sustaining jobs. They are proud to be a part of the working community; being on welfare was a nightmare that fortunately is now a memory.

Welfare reform is an ongoing effort by House Republicans. Act 29 of 2017 makes the Office of Inspector General a permanent part of state government, grants the office subpoena power for its internal investigations, and authorizes the office to investigate and file criminal charges for certain welfare fraud crimes.

SOURCE: PA House GOP release