BOSTON (AP) - Calls to toughen oversight of Massachusetts' welfare system are growing louder at the Statehouse.
A group of Beacon Hill lawmakers led by House and Senate Republicans is stepping up pressure on negotiators to include in the new state budget proposal restrictions designed to guarantee welfare benefits are reserved for the state's neediest residents.
Among the changes that the lawmakers are pressing for is the immediate phase-in of photo ID's on electronic benefits transfer - or EBT - cards for cardholders over the age of 18.
The lawmakers are also calling for the prohibition of out-of-state EBT card use except in states next to Massachusetts. They also say the state should increase fines for retailers who violate EBT prohibitions.
State Rep. Brad Jones, R-North Reading, said toughening welfare regulations will help safeguard the state's taxpayers and protect welfare recipients who are genuinely in need.
Also Monday, state Treasurer Steven Grossman said he's continuing to push for changes that he said would require state-of-the-art anti-fraud safeguards and compliance with new restrictions on EBT card use enacted by the Legislature.
"Fraud and abuse take money away from taxpayers, and they divert precious resources away from those who really need it," Grossman said.
The renewed pressure follows the release of an audit last week that concluded millions of dollars in questionable payments were made to people who were dead or otherwise ineligible.
Senate President Therese Murray, a Democrat, has already said she plans to file a comprehensive bill to tackle issues plaguing the welfare system.
Patrick administration officials have disputed claims in the audit that questionable welfare payments were made to more than 1,100 people who were dead or ineligible. They said the audit includes inaccuracies and false claims.