HARRISBURG – State Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Clearfield/Elk) stood with House leaders Wednesday to formally announce the introduction of welfare reform legislation that is intended to provide savings to the Commonwealth, while returning integrity and accountability to the public benefits system.
“For the last few years, we have heard Auditor General Jack Wagner’s reports of rampant welfare fraud and abuse fall on the apparent deaf ears of the previous administration,” Gabler said. “My colleagues and I, on the other hand, have heard the cries of constituents who demand that government must do better with their hard-earned money. We are taking action to support the taxpayers and the truly needy.”
Gabler has co-sponsored the following four pieces of legislation, all of which were passed Tuesday by the House Health Committee:
- House Bill 960 – Requires the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to establish a fraud detection system and an income eligibility verification system to identify, investigate and resolve potential cases of fraud and abuse.
- House Bill 1251 – Expands the definition of welfare fraud and provides whistleblower protection for county assistance employees who report suspected fraud in good faith.
- House Bill 1254 – Prohibits public assistance funds from being used in gaming facilities or for the purchase of tobacco and tobacco paraphernalia.
- House Bill 1261 – Addresses instances of “welfare shopping” where potential recipients apply in other counties or in multiple counties in order to obtain what they perceive as better benefit opportunities.
Gabler has also joined as a co-sponsor of the following bills which will be voted in committee Monday, April 11:
- House Bill 392 – Mandates use photo identification to make sure benefits aren’t misused or illegitimately transferred to ineligible parties.
- House Bill 1297 – Requires drug felons who apply for welfare benefits to pass drug tests in order to maintain eligibility.
- House Bill 1301 – Requires better accountability for expenditures made in the Medical Assistance Transportation Program, where fraud, waste, and abuse have significantly increased the burden of the program on taxpayers.
- House Bill 1312 – Transitions the special allowance program from grants to a loan-based initiative to ensure accountability of the funds expended for the purpose of transitioning people from welfare to work.
“When properly managed, welfare is a perfectly legitimate government program that serves as a hand up for those who are truly in need,” commented Gabler. “We must make every effort to ensure that the appropriated dollars for welfare end up in the hands of those who depend on it, not those whose sole intent is to game the system and cheat not only the taxpayers, but those who are truly in need.”
Gabler says the impact on taxpayers will be felt at budget-building time.
“It is a simple matter of priorities,” he added. “Addressing the fraud, waste and abuse in the welfare system will enable us to be better stewards of hard-earned taxpayer dollars through more efficient use of the limited resources we have. Our ultimate goal is to craft a state budget that more adequately reflects the priorities of the citizens we represent, and this package is an important step in that process.”