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Stacey Monahan to be interim Mass. welfare leader

The Patrick administration will name Stacey Monahan ­Saturday as interim commissioner of the state Department of Transitional Assistance, after Daniel J. Curley resigned under pressure this week.

Monahan, 40, has been chief of staff at the Executive Office of Health and ­Human Services since 2011 and has worked for Governor Deval Patrick in a ­variety of roles since 2005. She is a former executive director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and a graduate of Boston College, according to the ­Patrick administration.

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Curley resigned after Health and Human ­Services Secretary John Polanowicz, who took over the sprawling agency of 22,000 people on Jan. 22, said he was upset by management issues that surfaced during ­Curley’s tenure as head of the state’s welfare agency. Those ­issues included a demand by the US Department of Agriculture that the state repay $27 million in misdirected benefits.

“I intend for these steps to clearly indicate that we are account­able for taxpayer ­resources and seek to protect benefits for those who truly need them,’’ Polanowicz said in a statement.

The Department of Transitional Assistance was also the subject of a highly critical report by state Inspector General Glenn Cunha’s office, which found flaws in the way the department verified eligibility. Based on its sampling, the ­report projected that some eligibility errors could be found in the paperwork of about 33 percent of the recipients of the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program.

Cunha said the problem was not a weakness in rules, but that Transitional Assistance was not complying with its own regulations and lacked the manpower to ensure that recipients are eligible.

“The DTA needs someone who is committed to their enforce­ment of their policies,’’ Cunha said in an interview.

The inspector general’s report, which was requested by the state Legislature, found that the department could not verify that about 5,000 of the 50,000 people receiving Aid to Families continued to be eligible to ­receive the benefits, valued at about $25 million.

If the department followed its own rules on eligibility verification, the state might find everyone is qualified, Cunha said.

He also said the department and the agency overseeing elementary and high schools can work together to match up the names of children whose families are getting benefits with school rosters to cost-effectively verify eligibility.

House Republican leader Bradley H. Jones Jr., endorsed both the inspector general’s report and Polanowicz’s decision to end Curley’s tenure. “Change is absolutely essential to ensure that welfare benefits are ­reserved for the people who need them the most,’’ the North Reading Republican said. “The inspector general’s comprehensive report has provided the Legislature with a blueprint for action this session.’’

During last year’s US Senate race between Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Scott Brown, the department sent letters to 478,000 recipients alerting them of their voting rights, a mailing Brown said was politically motivated.

According to the Patrick ­administration, 47,000 mailers were returned as undeliverable, but of that total, the administration insists, only 3,000 recipients were not in compliance with department rules.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@
globe.com
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