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IG finds welfare system may be squandering $25m in benefits

A Massachusetts watchdog agency’s study of information submitted to the state by welfare recipients found errors and eligibility concerns with an ­average annual cost to taxpayers of about $25 million per year.

According to Inspector General Glenn Cunha’s report, dated Wednesday and posted on his website, investigators discovered potential eligibility concerns that could result in termination of benefits in about 9 percent of the households receiving benefits under the program known as Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The program is designed to provide assistance to the poorest residents of Massachusetts.

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Based on a sample of active family aid cases on June 1, Cunha’s office found “substantial compliance in all of the eligibility categories,” with one exception: none of the households with school-age children complied with a school attendance verification requirement.

The office also found potential eligibility errors in several areas, including undisclosed assets and employment income, missing residency verifications, participation in work programs, and citizenship or immigration status.

The inspector general said potential eligibility errors are expected in about a third of households receiving benefits, based on extrapolations made from the sample examined.

Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr noted the report’s arrival on the heels of Governor Deval Patrick’s call for higher taxes, fees, and tolls and said that Cunha’s report “proves that there is still substantial work to be done to eliminate and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in our state’s welfare system.”

“It’s unacceptable that taxpayers would be asked to pay more while millions are being wasted,” Tarr said Thursday. “Equally unacceptable is the diversion of precious dollars intended to support those in need from people who deserve them to those who do not.”

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