Public Assistance Programs Need More Integrity, Senators Say

HARRISBURG – Senators David G. Argall (R-29) and Joe Scarnati (R-25) are crafting a proposal that would strengthen the integrity of several areas within the state’s welfare department.

The two senators are taking concerns voiced by their constituents to include in a proposal that addresses several areas of misuse of taxpayer-funded benefits.

“Our concern is that these valuable taxpayer dollars are being misused when the programs are set to help those with a genuine need,” Senator Argall said. “We need to make sure we protect our most vulnerable citizens while letting the system abusers know the free ride is over. I’ve heard at town hall meetings some outrageous examples of misuse of taxpayer dollars occurring, but after further review, have found it is legal under the current system. This drives hardworking taxpayers crazy.”

“Pennsylvania taxpayers deserve to know that their tax dollars are being invested wisely and that state funds for public assistance programs are being given to those who truly have a need,” Senator Scarnati said.  “As our economy continues to recover, it is imperative that we utilize our state’s limited resources in a responsible manner.  Our comprehensive legislation will be aimed at ensuring that only our citizens who are legitimately in need of assistance receive benefits.”

Specifically, the Argall/Scarnati proposal will address several key issues to promote integrity of the public benefits.

Their plan would require the Pennsylvania Lottery to report individual winnings to the Department of Public Welfare when determining eligibility for public assistance. The proposal will also include a provision to place a cap on the amount of a primary vehicle’s worth when determining eligibility for programs at $35,000. Currently, there is no limit.

Under their plan, replacing lost Electronic Benefits Transfer cards would be a flat $5 for the first replacement card, and $100 for any replacement card after that in the same calendar year.

Finally, the senators seek to increase and standardize the grading and penalties for individuals who commit welfare fraud. A serious offense which leads to the receipt of fraudulent benefits valued at over $1,000 would be graded as a 3rd degree felony. It is currently considered a misdemeanor.

Argall and Scarnati will introduce a formal bill in a few weeks for the Senate’s consideration.

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