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Merrimack Valley

June 20, 2013

O'Connor Ives calls for photos on EBT cards

Welfare reform on Beacon Hill is moving forward this week with bipartisan support, and the Senate version includes provisions that would create a jobs program to move recipients into the workforce and add photographs to benefit cards.

State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, introduced legislation earlier this year that would require electronic benefits transfer cards, the state-issued cards that give recipients access to their benefits similar to using a credit card, to carry the photograph of the beneficiary as a measure to reduce fraud. That idea was incorporated in the Senate proposal unveiled Monday.

“This bill is a comprehensive initiative that closes a lot of the gaps for people that are gaming the system and that create additional opportunities for people who are legitimately using benefits to acquire gainful employment,” O’Connor Ives said, adding that she strongly supports the reforms.

The two proposals in the state Legislature follow two reports that detailed millions of dollars of fraud in the cash payment and food stamp programs, which are state-federal partnerships administered in Massachusetts by the state Department of Transitional Assistance.

The state Senate proposal, along with requiring a photograph on EBT cards, would create a jobs program to try to find applicants employment before they even receive benefits, and to require verification that recipients of benefits are actively searching for work.

“The other reason this makes sense is the goal is to transition people utilizing benefits to the workforce so they can become taxpayers,” O’Connor Ives said.

It also requires the Department of Transitional Assistance to verify Social Security numbers, hire more fraud investigators and report suspicious withdrawals, such as multiple withdrawals in even-dollar amounts and for the full benefit at once. Recipients’ applications and work verification forms would be signed under pains of perjury.

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