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Lawmakers Push for Welfare Reform Before Summer Recess

BOSTON, Mass. (WGGB)– One year after an audit report uncovered fraud in the Massachusetts welfare system, some Republican lawmakers say they are still waiting for change.

Outside the State House Wednesday, they signed a letter to the Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo asking for action now.

A welfare reform bill has been in conference committee since late last year.

“We want to bring attention back to the issue, so that we can get this bill out of conference committee and get it passed and into law, so we can start saving taxpayer dollars and have a welfare system that really helps people get into education and jobs and self sufficiency,” said Republican State Rep. Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton

Republican State Senator Bob Hedlund of Weymouth is on the committee tasked with coming up with a final version of the bill and says little progress has been made.

“I hope this isn’t being done to lull the public to sleep so their focus elsewhere,” Hedlund added

Hedlund says the House and Senate aren’t far apart, with one of the sticking points revolving around a residency check for public benefits

“There’s not a huge gulf between the 2 branches. If we were to focus on things, I’m sure we could get a bill out in a matter of hours.” said Hedlund.

Springfield Representative Benjamin Swan says he’s opposed to the reform and that some of the changes involving which items recipients can buy with their benefits actually go too far.

“I’m against those kinds of measure that lessen a person’s humanity in a direct kind of way,” Swan explains.

Speaker DeLeo says the state has already taken actions to combat fraud in the system, outside of the bill.

“Those who are truly in need of these funds will get those needs met and those who are guilty of fraud, those issues will be addressed as well,” DeLeo added.

The Speaker says he’s hopeful that progress will be made on the reform bill before summer recess.

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