GOP reps want to whittle down Pennsylvania's safety net


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Pennsylvania House Republicans want to dramatically pare down the state's Health and Human Services budget by requiring all able-bodied adults with no dependents to work.

Reps. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne) and Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill/Dauphin) are proposing a package of bills they say will "give more Pennsylvania families an opportunity to improve their quality of life, while tackling waste, fraud and abuse from within the current system."

"While the Commonwealth continues to face harsh economic realities, the citizens are demanding greater accountability for how their tax dollars are being spent," said Kaufer. "Welfare expenditures have become one of the most expensive items in the state budget. The major challenge is to separate those who are truly needy and eligible for state assistance from those who are not and are taking advantage of taxpayers."

Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a similar bill in October.

Kaufer and Tobash focused on three of the bills in the package at a Capitol press conference on Tuesday:

House Bill 1659, sponsored by Tobash, would prohibit the Department of Human Services from applying for waivers of the work requirement for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. The bill would require able-bodied adults without dependents to work, perform community service, participate in a work program or be enrolled as a full-time student in order to receive SNAP benefits.

House Bill 1788, sponsored by House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), would eliminate the extended Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits beyond the five-year time span, known as E-TANF, and would establish a cumulative 48-month lifetime limit.

A bill not yet introduced, to be sponsored by Kaufer, would establish a pilot program that encourages companies to hire individuals receiving welfare. It would allow TANF recipients to continue to collect their welfare benefits, plus a wage for a 20-hour week. The pay is graded after six months until after one year the individual is paid for a full 40 hours of work at which time the benefits are eliminated.

Tobash shared testimonies of individuals who sought assistance from Pennsylvania's welfare system. But he said that with the help of federal and state work initiative programs, these people now have family sustaining jobs.

Welfare reform is an ongoing effort by House Republicans.

A spokesperson for Gov. Wolf told PennLive that he would review the package with a view toward protecting senior citizens, people with disabilities, people with substance abuse disorders, and low-income families from harmful cuts.



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