Scarnati explained that House Bill 993 received final passage by the House of Representatives last week and that they concurred to an amendment that was inserted into the bill by the Senate. The bill was then signed into law on Wednesday, September 24 as Act 132 of 2014.
Originally, HB 993 was introduced only to change the name of the Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services (DHS). Scarnati then introduced an amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee in July, to expand the bill to also establish a toll-free telephone number and email address for individuals to report suspected fraud and abuse of public assistance programs.
“Pennsylvania taxpayers deserve to know that their tax dollars are being invested wisely and that state funds for public assistance programs are being given to those who truly have a need,” Scarnati said. “Recent findings of welfare fraud make it clear that we needed to have a way to help prevent abuse and be sure that our state’s limited resources are being used in a responsible manner.”
Scarnati noted that his amendment clearly outlined that all credible complaints received by the tip line and email account will be investigated or referred to the Office of Inspector General for further review.
As part of the amended legislation, a business or medical facility that accepts food stamps or medical assistance as a form of payment will be required to post a sign regarding the toll free Fraud Tip Line (1-844-DHS-TIPS). Within the next 60 days, the Department of Human Services will be providing the sign on its public website for business owners, managers and providers to print as needed.
Scarnati encouraged citizens to make use of the Fraud Tip Line. “If you see an individual or business who you believe is gaming the system, report it,” Scarnati urged. “Every dollar wasted through welfare fraud is a dollar that comes from your pocket as a taxpayer.”
“Providing a means for concerned citizens to report suspected abuse of public resources is a way that we can strengthen the integrity of Pennsylvania’s public welfare system, while ensuring those with genuine need continue to receive the assistance and resources for which they are eligible,” Scarnati concluded.
Scarnati has made eliminating welfare fraud one of his top legislative priorities. He has introduced bills to ensure that illegal aliens and lottery winners are not receiving taxpayer funded benefits as well as legislation increasing the penalties for welfare fraud.