WILKES-BARRE — Legislation proposed by two state representatives is aimed at containing costs and bringing about real reform to Pennsylvania’s welfare system.
State Reps. Aaron Kaufer, R-Kingston, and Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill/Dauphin counties, announced Tuesday a package of bills to give more families an opportunity to improve their quality of life, while tackling waste, fraud and abuse in the current system.
“While the commonwealth continues to face harsh economic realities, the citizens are demanding greater accountability for how their tax dollars are being spent,” Kaufer said in a news release. “Welfare expenditures have become one of the most expensive items in the state budget. The major challenge is to separate those who are truly needy and eligible for state assistance from those who are not and are taking advantage of taxpayers.”
Kaufer and Tobash specifically focused on three of the bills in the package at a Capitol press conference.
“After the budget experience my House colleagues and I just went through, I believe we need to work on bringing cost-saving measures to the forefront of our legislative priority list,” Tobash said. “Additionally, this package of bills builds on the understanding that work and strong families are the foundation on which we will build our future. We need to help people gain independence, not continue a life of dependence.”
The proposed changes include:
• House Bill 1659 — It would prohibit the Department of Human Services from applying for waivers of the work requirement for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. The bill would require able-bodied adults without dependents to work, perform community service, participate in a work program or be enrolled as a full-time student to receive SNAP benefits.
• House Bill 1788 — It would eliminate the extended Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits beyond the five-year time span, known as E-TANF, and would establish a cumulative 48-month, or four-year, lifetime limit.
• A bill not yet introduced — to be sponsored by Kaufer, would establish a pilot program that encourages companies to hire individuals receiving welfare. It would allow TANF recipients to continue to collect their welfare benefits, plus a wage for a 20-hour week, until after one year the individual is paid for a full 40 hours of work. At that time, benefits are eliminated.
Kaufer said welfare reform is an ongoing effort by House Republicans. Act 29 of 2017 makes the Office of Inspector General a permanent part of state government, grants the office subpoena power for its internal investigations, and authorizes the office to investigate and file criminal charges for certain welfare fraud crimes.