House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) and members of the House Republican Caucus have secured language in the Fiscal Year 2016 House budget aimed at detecting and reducing fraud in the state’s public assistance programs through the use of a biometric authentication system.
The language, approved unanimously as part of an omnibus
budget amendment on April 28, requires the Department of Transitional
Assistance (DTA) and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to report
back to the Legislature on existing fraud detection measures used within these
state agencies and to undertake a study of the feasibility of implementing a
biometric authentication system to enhance these efforts.
“This study is needed to evaluate if we can
feasibly create a reliable system of identification to eliminate fraud within
the Commonwealth’s public assistance programs,” said Representative Jones. “Based on similar efforts implemented in
other parts of the country, it seems reasonable to believe that this could save
the state millions of dollars by preventing individuals from fraudulently
claiming public benefits they don’t actually qualify for or deserve.”
amendment was co-sponsored by the House Republican leadership team, including
Representatives Brad Hill of Ipswich, Elizabeth Poirier of North Attleborough,
Susan Gifford of Wareham, Paul Frost of Auburn and Todd Smola of Warren. Additional co-sponsors included
Representatives Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick), Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica),
Sheila Harrington (R-Groton), Kimberly Ferguson (R-Holden), Leah Cole
(R-Peabody) and Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk).
biometric authentication system can prevent fraud by using a person’s biometric
identifiers, such as fingerprints, to cross-check their enrollment in other public
assistance programs to see if there is a match.
New York State has saved an estimated $314 million preventing fraud-related
losses since April 1995 and Los Angeles County has saved $55 million. Texas and New Jersey have contracts for pilot
programs, both of which utilize fingerprinting, although New Jersey’s program
also incorporates some facial recognition techniques.
2013 state audit found that Massachusetts welfare benefits were being paid to
dead people and to people living out of state. Representative Jones said biometric
authentication could help prevent this type of fraudulent activity.
has a program integrity unit that is focused on preventing fraud and has also
implemented a new data matching program, where information from 22 sources is
automatically checked when a person applies for state benefits,” said
Representative Jones. “Putting a biometric
authentication system in place could supplement these initiatives and reduce
wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars so the state can direct its resources to those
who truly need public assistance.”
The state Senate is expected to release and debate its
own version of the budget in May. A
six-member conference committee will then work to resolve the differences
between the two branches’ spending proposals and produce a final budget that
will be sent to Governor Baker for his signature.