In case you missed it, today marks the second day of debate on the House Ways & Means Fiscal Year 2014 Budget.
As you may have heard, the House of Representatives recently unveiled their $33.8 billion state budget proposal. While the budget presented to the Legislature includes significantly less spending then Governor Patrick’s budget proposal, the House’s plan relies too heavily on revenue found in the recently passed transportation finance bill, and House Republicans will continue to oppose this fiscally irresponsible approach.
Today’s debate will now shift its focus to amendments relative to housing and social services. Below, you will find the amendments offered by House Republicans, along with a brief description of the amendment.
Housing and Social Services
Amendment 745 - Housing Authority Handicap Conversion Grants (Durant, Peter)
Adds $500K by creating a new line item (7004-xxxx) for grants to local or regional housing authorities to renovate housing units for handicap accessibility, with a maximum grant amount of $50K to each authority.
Amendment 753 - Eligibility Requirements for State Housing (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Changes the language for the Department of Housing and Community Development account (7004-0099) to change from optional to mandatory: verification of benefit recipient income; provision of benefit recipient's social security number; denial or termination of benefits without the provision of a valid social security number; consultation with DOR and DTA for income verification. Does not increase the total appropriation.
Amendment 322 - EBT Fraud Investigations (Vieira, David)
Changes the inside language of the Department of Transitional Assistance’s (DTA) Administration and Operations account (4400-1000) to authorize DTA to keep up to $2M that DTA recovers through investigations of public benefit programs administered by DTA, for the purpose of hiring additional investigators and expenses related to investigations to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse of benefits.
Amendment 385 - EBT Cash Assistance Benefit Abuse Prevention (Jones, Bradley)
Amends section 15 and adds new outside sections to: (1) outline a phase-in of photo IDs on EBT cards for cardholders over the age of 18; (2) require cash assistance be used solely for goods and services necessary and essential for the recipient; (3) require the phase-in of UPC sorting technology to sort out prohibited items at point-of-sale (POS); (4) increase the potential fines on retailers who violate EBT prohibitions; (5) increase recipient and retailer education; (6) require businesses to apply online to accept EBT cards; (7) prohibit out of state EBT card use except in states contiguous to MA; (8) prohibits the use of self-declarations as sole verification of applicant eligibility; (9) requires all self-declarations to be signed under the pains and penalties of perjury; and (10) establishes an online payment system for rent and utilities and outlines gradual implementation.
Amendment 387 - Public Assistance Eligibility Reform (Jones, Bradley)
Amends sections 5, 86, 89, and 91 of the HWM FY14 Budget to: (1) mandate that EOHHS’s Integrated Eligibility System (IES) cross-check social security numbers of applicants/recipients with information from 9 specific state and federal databases and with 20 additional databases, to the extent that they are available; (2) mandate that the IES use an automated fingerprinting comparison system; (3) prohibit self-declarations from being used as the sole verification of eligibility; (4) require any self-declarations to be signed under the pains and penalties of perjury; (5) prohibits numerical identifiers from being used as placeholders for social security numbers for periods in excess of 3 months; (6) require that assets and income of immigration sponsors be considered when determining an applicant’s eligibility for assistance; (7) require the discovery of undisclosed business assets and income or assets of responsible relatives or immigration sponsors to be potentially disqualifying; (8) require the task-force established in section 89 to work with the bureau of program integrity and director of program integrity; (9) require EOHHS to annually file the report outlined in section 91 and include specifics regarding the number of people disqualified from public assistance following a discrepancy identified by the IES; (10) require the termination of benefits when mail communications are returned to DTA as undeliverable and social security numbers are not provided within 3 months of application for assistance; and (11) expedite the establishment of the IES.
Amendment 660 - Children's Advocacy Center of Bristol County (Poirier, Elizabeth)
Earmarks $200K from the Services for Children and Families account (4800- 0038) for the Children's Advocacy Center of Bristol County. Does not increase the overall appropriation.
Amendment 697 - An Amendment to Modernize the Re-Certification of EBT Benefits (Fattman, Ryan)
Adds a new outside section to require the Department of Transitional Assistance to determine a process for standardized semi-annual re-certification of EBT benefits that verifies the eligibility of a beneficiary, no later than the end of the calendar year.
Amendment 779 - To Create a Task Force to Study Ways to Reduce the Costs and Delays Associated with the Adoption Process in Massachusetts (Winslow, Daniel)
Changes the inside language of the Department of Children and Families’ Services for Children and Families account (4800-0038) to establish a task force to convene by September 1, 2013 to study the ways to reduce the costs and delays associated with the adoption process in Massachusetts and report to the Legislature with recommendations by March 1, 2014.
Amendment 790 - Relative to DTA Reporting (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Strikes Section 16, which provides a technical clarification regarding the Commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance’s annual reporting requirement to the Legislature and replaces it with language requiring the Commissioner to redundantly report to both the General Court and HWM/SWM.
Amendment 814 - Eliminating Self Declarations for Public Assistance Programs (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Adds a new outside section to prohibit the use of self-declarations as a means of verifying eligibility information for any form of public assistance.
Amendment 820 - School Participation Verification (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Changes the school attendance requirement for DTA benefits, established in Section 88, by specifically requiring that the grantee's benefits be suspended for 6 months or until the grantee can provide proof of a child's school attendance.
Amendment 828 - Relative to Photos on EBT Cards (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Amends Section 15 by requiring DTA to implement photo IDs on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards by January 1, 2014.
Amendment 838 - Eligibility Requirement for Public Assistance Programs (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Adds a new outside section prohibiting any form of public assistance from being granted to an individual who has not presented a valid and verified social security number.
Amendment 840 - Relative to EBT Violations (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Adds a new outside section directing the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to enforce all penalties and fines, as prescribed by the MGLs and DTA, for benefit recipients and retailers without any waivers or exemptions. Requires violation hearings to be open to the public and requires DTA to provide descriptions of all discovered violations and actions taken to be available on the DTA website.
Amendment 871 - Fraud Bureau (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Amends Section 6 to outline additional responsibilities of the new Bureau of Program Integrity, highlights include: (1) reviewing current eligibility intake and determination procedures, (2) assisting in the development of new intake procedures, (3) monitoring whether eligibility regulations are being followed, (4) assisting with the coordination of their state agencies in sharing data, (5) coordinating with the Program Integrity Division in the Department of Transitional Assistance.
Amendment 878 - Eliminating Fraud in Public Assistance (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Strikes out and replaces Section 5 of the HWM FY14 Budget, which mandates the establishment of an Integrated Eligibility System (IES), requiring the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to establish a computerized income, asset, and identity eligibility verification system to check public assistance applicants’ and recipients’ social security numbers with: 19 optional federal and state databases and 6 mandatory databases. Additionally: (1) outlines the procedures following the finding of a discrepancy between social security number and the verification system; (2) prohibits numerical identifiers from being used as placeholders for social security numbers for any period of time; (3) establishes an additional reporting requirement that duplicates the one established in Section 91.
Amendment 880 - Reforms to Reduce EBT Cash Access (O'Connell, Shaunna)
Adds new outside sections to (1) increase the potential fines on retailers who violate EBT prohibitions; (2) increase recipient and retailer education; (3) require businesses to apply online to accept EBT cards; (4) prohibit out of state EBT card use; (5) prohibit self-declarations; and (6) establish an online payment system.