Online Staff Report
Illinois House Republican lawmakers have unveiled a package of legislation designed to reduce fraud and misuse of the state’s welfare system.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross joined State Reps. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, and Joe Sosnowski, R-Belvidere, in Rockford April 24 to introduce their legislation.
The welfare reform package focuses on reducing the fraudulent use of LINK cards (food stamps), the misuse of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (cash) benefits, and preventing criminals from receiving welfare benefits. The goal of the legislation is to save taxpayer dollars and preserve benefits for those most in need.
“These programs were designed to assist families during difficult times. Unfortunately, there are those that abuse this system,” said Cabello. “Welfare costs in Illinois continue to skyrocket, while our state faces a serious fiscal crisis. The General Assembly must work to put a stop to the waste, fraud and abuse of the welfare program so that the benefits are there when people truly need them.”
House Bill 133 ensures that a person using a LINK card is the authorized user. The proposal would require all LINK cards to display a photo of the cardholder to ensure the person presenting it at the checkout counter is the same person who is entitled to use it. The names of all secondary users will also be placed on the card. Secondary users will be required to show a valid photo id before they can use the card.
“The goal for placing a picture on the LINK/SNAP card is to hopefully stop fraud at the register,” Sosnowski explained. “This extra layer of protection would make anyone trying to abuse the system think twice because their actual picture is not on the card. These benefits are vital for struggling families, and putting photographs on the LINK cards is one way we can ensure the help goes to the intended recipients.”
House Bill 2784 guarantees that cash assistance benefits are used for the basic needs they are intended for. TANF benefits are intended to provide financial assistance to help pay for basic needs such as food, shelter, utilities and other necessary expenses. However, under current law, a person is free to spend this cash however they feel. The legislation would prevent TANF benefits from being used to purchase alcohol, lottery tickets, firearms, and other specified goods and services.
State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, added: “We need effective checkpoints for financial assistance. Too often, we hear stories of fraud and misuse in public assistance programs. These programs are designed to be a safety-net for people in need. Every dollar spent inappropriately is a dollar taken away from those who truly need it.”
House Bill 3174 and House Bill 2490 would prevent criminals from receiving aid. These bills would suspend public aid and benefits to inmates at state correctional facilities and recipients with outstanding warrants.
“Taxpayer dollars already pay for incarcerated persons to be clothed, fed and sheltered,” Cabello said. “They are imprisoned as a punishment for wrongdoing, and it’s not fair to reward them by allowing them to collect further taxpayer-funded aid benefits.”
Cross said: “These are common-sense proposals that need to be considered in Springfield during this spring session. We need to make sure that our system is not being abused so that the people who need these services most have access.”
Posted April 24, 2013