Humason says EBT reform a must

WESTFIELD – State Rep. Donald Humason is happy Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget veto and amendments were defeated this week, especially the changes made to the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) reform.
“I think the governor’s off-base,” Humason said Friday.
The House and Senate supported EBT reform that would prohibit the use of EBT cards at tattoo parlors, nail salons, casinos, liquor stores, cruise ships, strip clubs, to purchase guns and ammunition, and more. Patrick suggested an amendment that would have prohibited certain purchases with an EBT card, still allowing them to purchase manicures and jewelry with the cards. He also vetoed prohibiting the use of Massachusetts-issued EBT cards across state lines, as well as rejecting legislation surrounding the replacement of cards reported lost.
Humason said the state needs to crack-down on welfare fraud.
“We are replacing upwards of 20,000 EBT cards a year for people who claimed they lost them,” Humason said. “And we are not charging for replacement cards or asking for proof that they are lost.”
Humason said the average person on assistance from the state receives $400 per month. He added that replacing “lost” cards costs about $500,000 each year.
Humason said there have been people arrested and found in possession of several EBT cards, all bearing different names. He said they are often traded for other goods, cash, and even drugs.
“They have become currency,” Humason said, adding that not everyone on state assistance is abusing the system.
Humason said Patrick has 10 days to veto or amend the latest budget approved by the House and Senate.  Then, they have 19 days to make any changes. Humason said at that point, the legislature makes the budget into law.
“We can veto (what Patrick next proposes) and then it becomes law,” said Humason, adding that he is happy there is some solidarity among the parties in House and Senate.
“As a Republican, it’s rare that you see a Democratic controlled legislature override a Democratic governor’s veto,” said Humason.
When asked why the two parties seem to be aligned on the EBT issues, Humason said there are two main reasons.
“Number one is that the governor is just wrong. And number two is that people want a crack down on the fraud and abuse of EBT cards. They don’t want other people using their tax money for tattoos and guns and cruises.  Our constituents demand it, so we are doing exactly what we should be doing.”
Republicans have been pushing for welfare reform for years. Humason said citizens are voicing their concern about abuse more than ever, and that, combined with media attention on the topic, means legislators are listening.
About Patrick’s amendments, Humason said “a lot of us are scratching our heads” particularly on the issue of using EBT cards out of state. Humason said he believes it is probably part of Patrick’s future political aspirations driving some of his decisions.
“I’m just happy this will end up going through,” Humason said.

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