Wednesday, November 6, 2013

House Republicans Aim to Improve EBT Legislation

In case you missed it, today the House of Representatives will debate House Bill 3737 – An Act Encouraging Low-Income Savings and Economic Opportunity.

The legislation being considered today has many of the same provisions included in Senate Bill 1806, An Act to Foster Economic Independence, as well as components of the FY14 House Engrossed Budget (H. 3401) and the House version of the FY13 June Supplemental Budget (H. 3522) including: tax return disclosure information; increased penalties for food stamp trafficking; increased oversight of work requirements; and the establishment of the Poverty Reduction Commission.

As such, the Republican Caucus has filed 45 amendments to the bill which seek to improve the oversight, delivery, and enforcement of the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program as well as initiatives to facilitate a path to independence for people currently receiving assistance.

Below, you will find the amendments offered by House Republicans to House Bill 3737, along with a brief description of the amendment.

Amendment #2 (Vieira, David) - Directs all funds recovered through DTA investigations to be appropriated to hire additional DTA investigators (4400-1000), up to a maximum of $2M. Any remaining funds are to be sent to the General Fund.

Amendment #13 (Lyons, Jim) - Prohibits, without exception, self-declarations of residency for individuals seeking taxpayer-funded benefits.

Amendment #14 (Lyons, Jim) - Requires applicants or recipients of cash benefits to provide a valid social security number upon application for benefits.

Amendment #16 (Cole, Leah) - Mandates that case workers directly contact the signer of the work participation forms to verify all information.

Amendment #17 (Cole, Leah) - Requires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to share information regarding cases of fraud committed by recipients collected by the Integrated Eligibility System.

Amendment #20 (Durant, Peter) - Directs DTA to create a personal finance literacy curriculum, which must be completed by all TAFDC and EAEDC recipients within 270 days of receiving benefits.

Amendment #22 (Diehl, Geoff) - Grants every House and Senate member access, upon request, to each of the four reports created by SECTION 4. No fee shall be charged to the member for the compiling of the reports and all fees already charged for such requests shall be retroactively refunded.

Amendment #25 (Diehl, Geoff) - Adds a requirement that information about the penalties for fraud or abuse of public benefits be part of the education program to be implemented at each DTA office.

Amendment #26 (O’Connell, Shaunna) - Reduces from 1 year to 90 days, and from 270 days to 90 days the amount of time that TAFDC and SNAP benefits, respectively, can go untouched by recipients prior to DTA expunging and recouping the balances.

Amendment #27 (Diehl, Geoff) - Prohibits, in any instance, self-declarations from being used as the sole verification of eligibility. As currently worded, self-declarations shall not be used “if possible.” (SECTION 8)

Amendment #28 (O’Connell, Shaunna) - Requires disclosure of the number of SNAP and TAFDC recipients with lawful permanent resident status less than 5 years in the report to be filed by DTA regarding non-citizen benefits recipients.

Amendment #29 (Lyons, Jim) - Strikes the additional $3M appropriation for DTA caseworkers (4400-1100). Strikes $11M appropriation for the Department of Career Services and the operation of the Pathways to Self-Sufficiency Program.

Amendment #30 (Diehl, Geoff) - Expands the scope of the high demand scholarship program to include students of vocational school districts.

Amendment #31 (Lyons, Jim) - Requires DTA to annually report the number of recipients exempt from having a photo ID on their EBT card and the reason for such exemption.

Amendment #34 (Diehl, Geoff) - Adds an appointee to the Poverty Reduction Commission, as established by SECTION 29, to be chosen by the Workforce Investment Board.

Amendment #35 (O’Connell, Shaunna) - Requires the Fraud Detection Program, as established by SECTION 10, to include any reports by caseworkers of potential cases of fraud. Requires DTA fraud reports to be completed on a monthly basis, rather than as needed.

Amendment #37 (Diehl, Geoff) - Strikes the language establishing the Pathways to Self-Sufficiency Program (SECTION 11) and accordingly strikes the $11M appropriation for the program (7003-0810).

Amendment #38 (O’Connell, Shaunna) - Requires DTA caseworkers to directly contact the employers on the list provided by the applicant during the initial job search; requires the recipient to provide the job posting if available; removes an exemption allowing recipients to only provide a contact of a prospective employer when feasible.

Amendment #40 (D’Emilia, Angelo) - Exempts pregnant women in the third trimester, children under the age of one, an asylee, or a domestic violence victim from the provision that requires cash benefit applicants to provide their social security number within three months of being assigned a place holder.

Amendment #41 (Fattman, Ryan) - Directs the General Court to commission a study, to be completed by April 20, 2014 to determine whether the state welfare system and associated resources are successfully moving individuals out of poverty and into a position of economic independence.

Amendment #42 (O’Connell, Shaunna) - Prohibits the access and use of cash assistance in states other than Massachusetts and border states. Directs DTA to track out-of-state card usage on a monthly basis, and contact recipients whose cards have been used in a state other than Massachusetts or a border state.

Amendment #43 (Republican Leadership) - Directs the Commonwealth Corporation to monitor the participation of applicants in the educational or training programs, and requires the applicant to provide documentation to DTA of such participation in order to receive cash assistance.

Amendment #44 (Republican Leadership) - Requires DTA to conduct an identity authentication and national asset check on a sponsor of an applicant prior to awarding cash or SNAP benefits to such applicant. The sponsor’s assets are to be used in determining income eligibility of said applicant.

Amendment #45 (Lyons, Jim) - Requires self-declarations from EAEDC and SNAP recipients, in addition to TAFDC recipients, to be signed under the penalty of perjury; prohibits, without exception, self-declarations from being accepted as the sole verification for eligibility for benefits.

Amendment #46 (Diehl, Geoff) - Requires DTA to facilitate naturalization papers to the Trial Court.

Amendment #47 (O’Connell, Shaunna) - Requires all recipients of DTA-managed benefits to have immigration statuses verified for lawful permanent residency. Further, lawful permanent residents residing in the state for less than 5 years will be ineligible for benefits, although waivers and exceptions can be rendered.

Amendment #48 (Republican Leadership) - Requires DTA to develop a cashless benefit system for recipients who are more apt to committing fraud, including program violations, and failing to pay rent or utilities with cash benefits.

Amendment #49 (Republican Leadership) - Allows qualified recipients of TAFDC to receive job training through the Precision Manufacturing Training Program in Hampden County under the Pathways to Self-Sufficiency Program.

Amendment #50 (Republican Leadership) - Limits access to cash benefits for convicted substance abusers. Amendment #52 (Republican Leadership) - Prohibits DTA from hiring outside consultants to research data already made available by DOR.

Amendment #53 (Republican Leadership) - Directs DTA to use all reasonable means to determine the address of a recipient who has moved and failed to report a change in address prior to suspending benefits. The current language requires the potentially too- broadly defined “all available means.”

Amendment #54 (O’Connell, Shaunna) - Requires DTA and the Division of Medical Assistance to establish an electronic verification system for income, assets, and identity. The application must be checked against 20 federal and state databases to ensure stringent asset and identity verification for recipients of public benefits. (Same as House Bill 133.)

Amendment #55 (Republican Leadership) - Amends the qualifications for presumption of abandonment of Massachusetts residency from not only 30 consecutive days, but also an aggregate of 90 days over the course of one calendar year.

Amendment #56 (Republican Leadership) - Prohibits individuals who are ineligible for federal public housing benefits from displacing an applicant for state public housing who is so eligible.

Amendment #58 (O’Connell, Shaunna) - Eliminates the three-month grace period for providing a valid social security number prior to receiving benefits. Applicants who are currently exempt from the SSN requirement (i.e., recipients eligible under a noncitizen status, victims of domestic violence, asylees, children under four months old, or children adopted within the past year) would then be given the three-month grace period.

Amendment #59 (Republican Leadership) - Establishes a minimum punishment of not less than 30 days imprisonment in a state prison or a fine of $250 for an individual convicted of trafficking food stamp benefits on two prior occasions.

Amendment #60 (Fattman, Ryan) - Suspends benefits to a recipient who fails to report a change in address until said recipient reports to DTA in person and provides proof of address. Self-declarations shall not be accepted as proof of address.

Amendment #61 (deMacedo, Vinny) - Expands punishment for food stamp trafficking to a suspension of benefits for a period of six months for the first offense, and a one year suspension for the second offense. Individuals may re-apply for benefits following the first and second offense. A third offense will result in complete termination of benefits indefinitely.

Amendment #63 (Republican Leadership) - Adds House and Senate Minority Leader appointments to the Poverty Reduction Commission, as established by SECTION 29.

Amendment #64 (Republican Leadership) - Instructs DTA and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to implement a system to verify student attendance in the Commonwealth.

Amendment #65 (Kuros, Kevin) - Instructs DTA to file a report detailing the reasons for expenditures from the economic independence accounts of public benefits recipients.

Amendment #68 (D’Emilia, Angelo) - Requires that a minimum of five potential employers be contacted by benefit applicants during the initial job search required prior to receiving benefits.

Amendment #71 (deMacedo, Vinny) - Instructs the Poverty Reduction Commission to study the feasibility of instituting a cap on the total amount of benefits individuals and households may receive in the aggregate.

Amendment #77 (Republican Leadership) - Requires DTA to establish a cashless system by January 1, 2019.

Amendment #79 (Mirra, Lenny) - Creates a tax credit beginning January 1, 2014 for businesses hiring a recipient of DTA aid who remains employed for 185 days or more; in the first year, the credit shall be up to $5K; the second year, up to $10K; and the third year, up to $15K.