Massachusetts officials launched an initiative Tuesday that will eliminate high balances on electronic benefit transfer cards and suspend federal nutritional assistance benefits that are not being utilized, as officials continue a crackdown meant to save taxpayers’ money and protect benefits for those who really need them.
“I was given a mandate from the governor to do a top-to-bottom review of the agency and make changes to improve the way we do business,” Stacey Monahan, commissioner of the state Department of Transitional Assistance, said in a statement released by the department on Tuesday.
“The fact that some clients are accumulating high [Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program] or cash balances is inconsistent with the department’s goals of helping vulnerable individuals meet their most basic and immediate needs, and that’s why we are taking this action.”
According to latest data, collected in March, the average account balance of those receiving cash assistance is $25.21, but six accounts were in violation of department rules and have EBT card balances over $2,500, Monahan said.
Under the new cash assistance reform announced Tuesday, the small percentage of clients who currently exceed the $2,500 asset limit will have their accounts immediately closed, and no balances will be allowed to go over the limit in the future, Monahan said.
The change will affect those who are receiving benefits under the transitional aid to families with dependent children program or emergency aid to the elderly, disabled, and children plan.
The department will also expunge cash benefit balances on accounts that have been inactive for 90 days, the commissioner said.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump released an audit in May that said hundreds of people might have fraudulently collected welfare or illegally sold food benefits for cash.
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Egresitz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @HavenTaylor.