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Lawmakers unveil welfare overhaul bill

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers released a compromise bill yesterday intended to overhaul the state’s welfare system.
The bill would revive a state program originally established in 1995 designed to help place welfare recipients in full-time work and require the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to have specialists who are assigned to help high-risk recipients.
The bill also includes a program to help recipients save money for first, last and security rent payments and for education. It would increase penalties for store owners who knowingly allow the purchase of prohibited products or services with an electronic benefits transfer card.
Senate President Therese Murray said the bill “outlines thoughtful changes to our welfare system” and will help the state’s overall economy.
The Senate could vote to accept the compromise bill as early as Thursday, she said.
The compromise bill also would:
— Create a job diversion program through the DTA to help connect able-bodied people with full-time jobs before they start receiving benefits.
— Change the exemption from the work requirement for women in the last four months of pregnancy to the last month of pregnancy unless there is a documented medical issue.
— Allow pregnant teens to be eligible for the Teen Living Program at the start of their pregnancy. Currently, pregnant teens must be 120 days from their due date to be eligible for a Teen Living Shelter Program.
— Require the DTA to file a report with the Legislature 60 days before issuing or changing any regulations that would alter benefits.
— Change the number of days in which a temporary absence from Massachusetts creates a presumption that Massachusetts residency has been abandoned to more than 30 consecutive days or 90 days over the course of a calendar year.
— Require the calculation of a five-year cap on the family rather than separate for each parent.
— Require the DTA to share information with federal, state and local law enforcement and the trial court about benefit recipients who are the subject of felony warrants.

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