Mass. lawmakers call for action on welfare reform - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Mass. lawmakers call for action on welfare reform

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BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) -- Some lawmakers are saying they had higher hopes for the Bureau of Program Integrity, something they created to fix the problems in the welfare system. They say it's time for some action and they're not convinced the bureau is moving fast enough.

FOX 25's Sharman Sacchetti spoke with lawmakers on Beacon Hill Friday who say they are fed up with reviews and reports. They say it's high time for the head of the newly created Bureau of Program Integrity to crack down on welfare fraud and abuse.

The calls for action come one day after the newly created bureau announced it is performing another review of the welfare system.

"What we're hoping for is as she's doing the report, she actually finds other issues out there and that we address the issues and not wait seven months for a report to come out before we react to what she suggests we need to do for changes," said State Rep. Brad Hill.

Although a review is required by March 2014 under the law that created the bureau, lawmakers say they had hoped for more.

"Their main goal, their immediate focus, should be oversight and enforcement," said Rep. Shaunna O'Connell. "And ensuring that we're checking social security numbers, we're checking identity assets, and we're stepping up the self-declaration of residency that has allowed so many people to fraudulently be in these programs."

Rep. Jim Miceli tells FOX 25 the bureau's first meeting should be with the attorney general. The Wilmington Democrat also says the agency should move faster.

"Put some urgency behind it, let's bring some of those cases into court," said Rep. Miceli.

FOX 25 tried to speak with Inspector General Glenn Cunha or Julie Lavin Flaherty, who starts as head of the agency at the end of September at a salary of $95,000, but neither were available.

A spokesman told FOX 25 "Inspector General Cunha's intention is to correct problems when they're identified and to bring them to the attention of the agency, in this case DTA, and share our analysis with them as soon as its feasible and as soon as there's clarity about the problem so some action can be taken." The spokesman added the report doesn't have to take seven months, it's just due then.

"Every day we wait means that more dollars of taxpayer money are being given out fraudulently, and it means that people really in need are going without," Rep. O'Connell told FOX 25.

The Department of Transitional Assistance sent FOX 25 a statement, essentially saying that it has made what it calls "significant progress" in rooting out fraud.

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