By: Senator David G. Argall (R-29)
Following up on some leads from the Senate’s cost-cutting efforts which I chaired in 2010, I have quietly been meeting for months with concerned constituents in an attempt to learn more about waste, fraud and abuse within our welfare system.
Included in the 2011-12 state budget were over $400 million in cuts to the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) in an effort to remove beneficiaries who are not eligible for benefits under state and federal law. One new law includes random drug testing for welfare applicants who have been convicted of a prior drug felony. Recently, the department announced it will begin a pilot program in Schuylkill County to see how this can be implemented statewide.
The department will randomly drug test applicants as well as recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and General Assistance cash assistance who have been convicted of a felony drug offense within the past five years and for applicants who are currently on probation for a felony drug offense.
People at my town hall meetings throughout the district repeatedly tell me they would like to see serious reforms to stop giving a “free ride” to individuals who should not receive taxpayer-funded benefits and instead target those programs for people who genuinely deserve state assistance. This news is long overdue in a department that consumes 30 percent of the state budget.
This pilot program will seek to answer how much can the state save by removing individuals who continue to abuse illegal drugs while, at the same time, collecting the hard-earned tax dollars of local constituents in the form of welfare benefits.
This initiative should send a very clear message: the “free ride” is over for those who break our laws and still seek to continue to receive public welfare benefits.
Contact: Jon Hopcraft