Governor Deval Patrick today said that officials will release as much information about state benefits collected by the alleged marathon bombers as is allowed by law, and vowed his office will make sure the state followed all eligibility rules in granting the aid.
“I understand the public is curious,” said Patrick, according to a transcript of remarks made this morning after the annual fish stocking at Jamaica Pond. “I also understand there are some limits on what can properly be released and within the law, we’ll do what we can.”
Earlier this week, a state health and human services spokesman said that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his family had so little income that they qualified for state assistance until 2012, and that both brothers received benefits through their parents when they were younger. The welfare benefits were first reported by the Boston Herald.
However, today, the Department of Transitional Assistance released a statement walking back the release of that information:
“State and federal laws prohibit disclosing information about individuals accessing a wide array of benefits. This week, the Department of Transitional Assistance, in an effort to be responsive to public inquiries, inappropriately confirmed information about the Tsarnaev family. Disclosing such information is not allowed by law. Regardless of the circumstances, we are obligated to follow state and federal law.”
Patrick said the decision not to release information about welfare benefits had nothing to do with the accused terrorists’ privacy rights, and everything to do with abiding by the law.
He said that Department of Transitional Assistance officials are gathering background information for him to review as part of an effort to make sure that all rules surrounding dispensation of state aid were followed.
Patrick said he understood that people are upset over the idea that state aid had gone to the two brothers who allegedly killed four people and wounded hundreds more in a week of violence that began on April 15 with the bombing of the Boston Marathon and ended with the alleged slaying of an MIT police officer and a shootout with police in Watertown.
“There are good and bad people on and off public assistance, but it’s obviously concerning that people who have done this kind of damage to us all would have been on the public dole for some period of time,” he said.
Patrick also acknowledged that there are many questions surrounding what federal agencies knew about the Tsarnaev brothers before the bombing, and said he is eager to hear the answers. His focus now, he said, is “helping us put the community back together and assuring that justice is done.”
“It’s been just over a week since the attacks and just a few days since the surviving suspect was apprehended,” he said. “So there’s still a lot to process... To the extent we can, we want everybody to live their lives and live them with vigilance, and I’m trying to do that, too.”