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In this Email Update:
Combating welfare fraud
Combating welfare fraud in Pennsylvania is critical not only to ensure the integrity of our public assistance programs, but also to ensure that individuals who need benefits receive them, while those who are cheating the system are caught.
During this past legislative session I introduced a bill which would increase the staff complement at the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The increased staff complement is designed to help assist welfare caseworkers who encounter questionable assistance applications as well as investigate tips from the public regarding suspected fraudulent activities. The measure passed both the Senate and House, however the governor vetoed the bill on October 28, 2016.
Despite this veto, I am not giving up on this initiative and I will be re-introducing the bill so we can hopefully hire additional welfare fraud investigators. By increasing staff at the OIG, we can continue to tackle welfare fraud and abuse and save money that will help to fund state programs.
According to the OIG Fiscal Year 2014-15 Annual Report, the agency prevented $87.6 million in welfare fraud, recovered $22 million in welfare overpayments and investigated 25,756 applications for benefits.
A recent article on PennLive lists the names of 45 individuals in Pennsylvania who were prosecuted for welfare fraud. Read the article here.
SCI Frackville prison update
On January 6, the governor and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel announced that SCI Frackville is one of five state prisons that are under consideration to be closed. Since this recent announcement, many local residents have contacted my offices to voice their concerns over this matter.
The potential closing of SCI Frackville is unsettling and will certainly have a negative impact not only on our communities, but also across the county and region. Closing this facility would be detrimental given the important fact that SCI Frackville is not only an efficiently run facility, but it has also created hundreds of jobs for local residents.
To address this issue, I am currently working with Representatives Goodman, Knowles, Tobash and Masser on this important matter urging the governor and Secretary Wetzel to keep this facility open.
I am hoping we can resolve this issue in the near future. I encourage you and any one you know to sign the petition located here on my website urging the governor and secretary to keep SCI Frackville open.
Proof of citizenship needed to receive public benefits
As we continue to combat illegal immigration in our state and across the country, I recently signed on as a co-sponsor to Senator Patrick Stefano’s (R-Connellsville) legislation which would prevent illegal immigrants in Pennsylvania from receiving public benefits such as Medicaid, welfare and unemployment compensation.
Under Senate Bill 9 (which is a reintroduction from the previous session), individuals requesting public assistance in Pennsylvania will be required to show proof of citizenship. In addition, individuals will be required to sign an affidavit which affirms that they are a U.S. citizen or an immigrant who is in the United States legally. Read more about the bill’s history here.
Given the staggering deficits both our state and country are facing, it is important that we address this issue head-on since it has been estimated that the federal government, as well as state governments, spend billions of taxpayer dollars to provide assistance and benefits to illegal immigrants.
Top priorities heading into the 2017-18 legislative session
With the start of the 2017-18 legislative session soon underway, a number of top priorities were highlighted in The Caucus newspaper – the majority of which Pennsylvania’s residents are all too familiar with.
The top priorities that were listed for this session include:
I have spoken to many local residents about these issues over the years and I am hopeful that we can find solutions that will save taxpayers money, reduce wasteful spending, generate revenue for the state, and most importantly, protect the well-being of Pennsylvania’s residents.
Guest Chaplain recommendations
Each day that the legislature is in session, we open the session day with a prayer which is led by a Guest Chaplain. I am requesting any recommendations local residents may have for Clergy that would be interested in serving as the Guest Chaplain and offering a prayer that particular session day.
Please provide me with their name, address, phone number, email address and place of worship, and I will make sure to forward their information to the Senate Majority Caucus Administrator, Senator Charles McIlhinney (R-Doylestown) for consideration.
2017 Tax Amnesty program
Under Act 84 of 2016, the Department of Revenue was authorized to administer a PA Tax Amnesty program. The Tax Amnesty program will waive 100 percent of the penalties and half of the interest incurred for any individual or business that pays delinquent state taxes during a 60-day time period running from April 21 until June 19, 2017.
Learn more about the 2017 Tax Amnesty program, including guidelines and webinar information here.