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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: January 9, 2014 12:31 PM
From: Senator David G. Argall and Sen. Joseph B. Scarnati, III
To: All Senate members
Subject: Public Assistance Integrity
In the near future, we plan to introduce comprehensive legislation which would address the outcry from Pennsylvania residents regarding welfare abuse as witnessed in recent headlines across the state. Individuals who abuse our welfare system are not only defrauding taxpayers but are also diverting essential and limited resources from our most vulnerable citizens who are truly in need, including children, the elderly and disabled. Our proposal would strengthen the integrity of our public welfare system while ensuring those with genuine need would continue to receive the assistance and resources for which they are eligible.

Lottery Winnings

Our legislation will address the concern of lottery jackpot winners receiving public assistance by requiring the Pennsylvania Lottery to report individual winnings to the Department of Public Welfare in order to be factored into determining ongoing benefit eligibility.

Limit Vehicle Exemption

Many of our constituents have voiced concern over those on public assistance driving luxury vehicles. Currently, one motor vehicle is exempted from calculations of an applicant’s available resources when applying for benefits. Our legislation would cap the value of an exempted vehicle at $35,000. A vehicle worth above that amount would be included as an available resource of an applicant.

Lost EBT Card Charges

The legislation also establishes uniformity among replacement fees for lost Electronic Benefits Transfer cards by imposing a flat $5 fee for the first card lost, with an increased amount of $100 for any additional card lost within the same calendar year. These fees will deter recipients from exchanging or selling their EBT cards to unauthorized individuals while protecting those who have legitimately lost or misplaced their Access cards.

Increased and Standardized Penalties for Welfare Fraud

Finally, our legislation will increase and standardize the grading and penalties for individuals who commit welfare fraud. A more serious offense which leads to the receipt of fraudulent benefits valued at over $1,000 would be graded as a 3rd degree felony while receipt of any fraudulent value below that amount would be graded as a 1st degree misdemeanor. In addition to acting as a deterrent, this change will bring penalties for these crimes in line with that of other fraudulent benefit activities under Title 18.

Please contact Jon Hopcraft (jhopcraft@pasen.gov or 787-2637) or Casey Long (clong@pasen.gov or 787-7084) with any questions.

Introduced as SB1379