House Republicans are making welfare reform in Pennsylvania a priority this year.
The chamber passed three welfare measures this week, and sent them to the Senate. One of the bills strengthens penalties for misusing money from Pennsylvania’s cash assistance program; another broadens and standardizes background checks of potential welfare recipients. Sponsor Dave Reed explained the third measure, “would end benefit shopping, where one person may live in one county, and goes to another county to actually apply for benefits, because they have a higher level of benefits if they apply in that county. So basically just says, no matter where you apply for the benefits, you’re only going to get benefits based on where your actual residence is.”
Republicans want to pass five other welfare reform bills in the coming months. They’re also planning to slash funding for the Department of Public Welfare, one of the few areas where Governor Corbett proposed a spending increase. GOP leaders say they’d shift some of that money to higher education funding.
During Tuesday’s debate, several Democrats criticized the measures as political posturing, aimed at fixing imaginary welfare problems. Democrat Mark Cohen suggested the measures were meant “to scare the hell out of people so they don’t apply…and [the state] saves money,” according to a Capitolwire report. Reed pushed back against the criticism, saying, “I think folks can come up with any excuse in the book to not want to stop welfare fraud, and not want to actually cut these sort of folks off the system. but the bottom line comes down to, if they don’t believe anybody is committing welfare fraud across the state, they should have nothing to worry about. These programs, every one of them, is only focused on folks who are defrauding the system.”