Protection for the Poor a First Step

It’s too easy to steal from low-income Pennsylvanians and taxpayers according to Senators Scarnati and Argall.

The lawmakers say it’s time to increase fraud penalties to make stealing over $1000 in welfare benefits a third degree felony. But that’s just one of four areas they hope to address in forthcoming legislation.

In addition to increasing penalties, the legislative package would require the Lottery to communicate with the Department of Welfare to ensure lottery winnings are factored into benefits, currently the department relies on beneficiaries to report their winnings, creating many opportunities for fraud. The legislation  would also create a $5 fee for the first-time loss of an EBT card (food stamp card) and $100 for additional replacements in the same year. Finally, it adjusts the food stamp asset test by adding a $35,000 limit on the value of a vehicle.

Senator Argall said, “We need to make sure we protect our most vulnerable citizens while letting the system abusers know the free ride is over.”

He’s right—deterring welfare abusers is a crucial and long overdue reform.

The goal of any welfare program should be to reduce poverty without burdening taxpayers—eliminating fraud and abuse would enable the state to better target aid to those who are genuinely in need.

In addition to rooting out fraud, it’s essential to examine Pennsylvania’s welfare system and restructure programs to reward work and foster charity care. Easing the transition from poverty to prosperity by making employment more attractive is the ultimate fraud, waste and abuse deterrent.