House Minority Whip Mike Turzai of Mc Candless says a bill he’s introducing would streamline a Department of Public Welfare program’s spending, and help cut out waste. The bill comes on the heals of an August audit of DPW’s “Special Allowance Program,” which dispenses financial aid to lower income Pennsylvania residents. The audit found “lax oversight” and an “environment that encourages potential fraud.”
Turzai says his bill would help correct that. Among other things, the measure would eliminate the funding that is directly provided to welfare recipients for certain needs and programs such as schoolbooks, day care payments, and car repairs. Instead, Turzai would have DPW make those payments directly to the organizations or businesses providing the services. He says, “You don’t know what some of the folks are doing with the money, but if you have good documentation you pay it right to the end-user provider that’s providing that service. We’d require payments be made directly by DPW, no intermediaries.” Turzai and other Republicans say there are scores of examples of aid recipients using DPW grants to buy drugs and alcohol, but critics say the Republicans are drumming up anecdotal evidence, and exaggerating the amount of welfare fraud that’s taking place. Philadelphia Democrat Babette Josephs says there’s a disconnect between the Republicans’ rhetoric and actions. “On one hand, talking about dignity and preparing people for work and for a life that is an adult, responsible life. And on the other hand, taking money away from them because we’re not going to trust them to actually put it into daycare,” says Josephs. Turzai says the bill could save the state at least 100 million dollars. DPW did not return calls for comment.