Campaign Updates

THE WELFARE REFORM RECORD CHARLIE BAKER IS NOT TALKING ABOUT ON THE TRAIL

Allowed Fraud Cases To Languish, Sought To Deny Additional Benefits To New Moms And Referred Welfare Parents To DSS To “Determine Fitness As Parents”

SOMERVILLE – Monday,  October 13, 2014 - As the Boston Globe noted today, Charlie Baker has stressed the 1990s wedge issue of welfare reform as a priority during this campaign, despite the fact that most “reforms” to the system were already passed by the Legislature a few months ago.

But one thing Baker and his supporters are not talking about is his own record on welfare reform as both a Secretary in the Weld administration and during his 2010 campaign. As Secretary, Baker proposed a plan that would refer welfare parents to DSS to determine their “fitness as parents” based on their adherence to the work requirement. He also proposed stripping new moms of additional benefits if they had more children. And while talking about cracking down on fraud on the campaign trail, Baker’s own record is one in which he allowed a backlog of more than 20,000 open welfare investigations to languish for more than four years. During his 2010 campaign, he placed a photo of Governor Deval Patrick on an EBT card as a political stunt.

Here are just a few "lowlights" of Baker's actual record:

1. As the Secretary of HHS under Bill Weld, Charlie Baker proposed a plan to refer welfare parents to DSS to "determine their fitness as parents" if they refused to try to find a job, do job training or community service.  Advocates raised concerns at the time that this would risk these parents having their children placed in state custody.  

A State House New Service story from April 28, 1993 says "The Weld administration today clarified a plan under which welfare parents who fail to pursue community service, job training, or employment could risk having their children placed in state custody....The administration proposal does call for referrals of welfare parents to DSS to determine their fitness as parents, if they flat out refuse to try to find a job, training, or community service."  While Baker went on record saying that "if you don't participate, no one is going to yank your kids", advocates raised serious questions about why welfare parents would be referred to DSS.  Baker also said in the SHNS story that the administration's proposal would "strip adults who fail to comply with proposed welfare contracts of their cash grants."

2. Proposed stripping new moms of benefits.

Secretary Baker prepared a federal application to deny additional benefits to women on welfare who have more children. At the time, mothers typically received about $90 per each additional child. (Boston Globe 4/7/94) 

3. In the 2010 campaign, Charlie Baker called for public housing applicants to undergo a "lifestyle analysis" to ensure they weren't concealing income or assets.

In addition to calling for the state to review the lifestyle choices of welfare recipients, Baker launched a million-dollar TV ad accusing Deval Patrick of "giving welfare recipients cash cards for booze, slots."  In 2010, Baker also called for the homeless to show proof of legal residency (an obvious difficulty for people who are homeless) in order to get into homeless shelters.

4. Baker allowed welfare fraud cases to languish for years.

“State Auditor Joseph DeNucci charged yesterday that years of mismanagement at the state Bureau of Investigations created a chronic case backlog that hobbled Massachusetts’ effort to root out welfare fraud. DeNucci said that in the spring of 1995, when he launched his audit, more than one-third of the agency’s 60,000 open cases had been languishing four years or more. More than 5,500 had been pending for more than ten years. In addition, the individual caseloads of the bureau’s 105 investigators varied widely, from a low of 43 cases to a high of 1,788 cases”. (Boston Globe, 1/7/97)

5. Baker/Weld’s anti-fraud unit was forced to disband following its bungled crackdown on criminals collecting welfare.

“Welfare fraud investigators have been accused of squandering taxpayer money on hotel stays during a roundup last summer of 559 violent fugitives who were collecting welfare. Public Safety Commissioner Winthrop Farwell, who oversees the Bureau of Special Investigations, has refused to reimburse the investigators for $6,000 worth of travel expenses, asserting it was unnecessary for them to accompany police who made the arrests. The six investigators were part of a newly formed warrant team at the Bureau of Special Investigations, a small state agency that investigates welfare fraud. After reviewing the team’s expenses and responsibilities in the fugitive roundup, Farwell ordered the warrant unit disbanded, and the six have since resumed their other investigative duties.” (Boston Globe, 11/29/97)

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Photo Credit: 2014 Martha Coakley