Revises current law to allow the Department of Health and Human Services to recoup unauthorized public assistance payments from any legally liable person. Current law allows the Department to recover only "future grants," so that the Department may recover payments only if the legally responsible party is eligible for assistance in the future.
Some argue that New Hampshire needs to pass stricter laws on who can receive welfare assistance and how that assistance can be spent. Many taxpayers are angry to learn that even a penny of tax dollars can be spent by welfare recipients on alcohol and cigarettes.
On the other hand, the cost of enforcing stricter welfare laws often exceeds the savings from distributing fewer benefits (as explored further below). Is it really worth it to raise costs and stigmatize innocent recipients, just to catch a few bad apples?
What is "welfare"?
The term "welfare" has been used to describe many social welfare programs funded by the government, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This page focuses primarily on Financial Assistance to Needy Families (FANF), the New Hampshire program for distributing the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
TANF was created by the federal government in 1996 to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the welfare program created by FDR in the 1930s. TANF distributes federal money to the states according to each state's population, and each state matches that money with its own funds. Each state can choose how to spend the TANF money, so long as no adult receives more than five years of assistance (children can receive more than five years of assistance).
Each year the federal government grants New Hampshire about $10 million for TANF. New Hampshire matches the federal grant with state money.
New Hampshire's program for distributing TANF money is called Financial Assistance to Needy Families (FANF). Under FANF a family can receive cash benefits from the state in the form of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, basically a debit card issued by the state. The state calculates a family's eligibility for FANF based on income, other resources, and the presence of dependent children. New Hampshire also requires FANF recipients to work or attend school. The New Hampshire Legislature has considered—but not passed—several other restrictions for FANF.
Limits on purchases
In 2012, New Hampshire convenience store clerk Jackie Whiton was fired for refusing to sell cigarettes to a man paying with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card from the state. Since then, Whiton has led a crusade to forbid alcohol and cigarette purchases with EBT cards. New Hampshire already restricts the use of EBT cards at liquor stores, casinos, tattoo parlors, smoke shops, marijuana dispensaries, and adult entertainment venues.
As of March 2017, at least fifteen states had passed a law requiring some drug testing for welfare recipients. Florida's welfare drug testing law was struck down in federal court as a form of warrantless search.
In 2011 the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services estimated that drug tests would cost the state $219,000-$234,000 annually yet save the state only $50,000-$169,000 in denied benefits.
Caps on assistance
Some states have laws that cap welfare benefits for new children. Under those laws a mother cannot receive additional benefits for any child born after she started receiving benefits. In 2012, New Hampshire considered HB 1658, a bill that would have capped FANF benefits in that way. The bill was ultimately revised to remove the cap.
There have been attempts at both the federal and state level to require the use of a photo ID to make a purchase with an EBT card. So far, these requirements haven't passed, and those receiving assistance in New Hampshire can use their cards without an ID. The move is championed as a way to prevent welfare fraud. However, there are few statistics on EBT fraud, so there is no way to tell if the state is losing significant money through fraud.
PROS & CONS
"NH should add restrictions on welfare recipients."
- Restrictions on EBT purchases are necessary as taxpayer dollars should never be spent on cigarettes, alcohol, and other "vices."
- Drug testing is justified because the state has an interest in ensuring that taxpayer-funded benefits do not support illegal drug addiction. Testing could also help the state identify drug addicts in need of treatment.
- A cap on benefits would decrease the number of children born into poverty. Less than 1% of FANF families have additional children while receiving benefits, so the cap's negative impact on families would be minimal.
- Requiring photo identification would decrease the number of residents stealing, selling, or otherwise committing fraud with EBT cards.
"NH should not add restrictions on welfare recipients."
- EBT restrictions are easily sidestepped because EBT cards can be used at ATMs for cash withdrawals. Limiting those cash withdrawals could in turn hurt recipients who rely on cash transactions.
- The state could require recipients to hand in cash purchase receipts for examination, but reviewing those receipts would be burdensome on social service agencies that are already spread too thin.
- The cost of administering drug tests exceeds the savings of denying benefits to drug users.
- Welfare drug testing laws may violate the Constitution unless they are written to require a reasonable suspicion of drug use.
- At least two studies show that welfare caps in other states have had no impact on whether or not a woman becomes pregnant. Therefore a cap would only deprive newborns of much-needed financial assistance.
- Requiring photo identification for EBT purchases unfairly stigmatizes recipients. Many benefit recipients without driver's licenses may also lack photo identification to make purchases.
- If New Hampshire chose to issue photo identification to food stamp recipients, that would increase administrative costs for the state.
Gives municipalities greater access to a decedent's estate to pay for burial or cremation when the person was receiving local welfare assistance. At the time of this bill's submission, municipalities are required to provide burial or cremation services for any person receiving local welfare assistance.
Prohibits the state from waiving the federal work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents who receive food stamp benefits. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the state waives the work requirement for households in 14 towns identified by the U.S. Census Bureau as having high unemployment rates and few employment opportunities. As of October 2017, there were a total of 38 unique households for which work requirements were waived.
Amends the work requirements for food stamps and the New Hampshire Employment Program so that they match the work requirements New Hampshire has requested for the expanded Medicaid program. This would end a waiver in the food stamps program that allows a small number of individuals in towns with high unemployment to receive food stamps even though they are not working. There are already similar work requirements in place for the New Hampshire Employment Program, although there is only a penalty for failing to meet the requirements; this bill would require a terminantion of all benefits if a person fails to meet work requirements. The New Hampshire Employment Program provides training, job search assistance, childcare, transportation, and other help to low income individuals looking for work.
Increases the statutory damage amounts for welfare fraud to align with other felony and misdemeanor crimes involving fraud. This would allow more welfare fraud cases to be brought as misdemeanors rather than felonies.
Establishes a two-year pilot program for case management and employment counseling for certain parents enrolled in the New Hampshire Employment Program (NHEP) or otherwise eligible for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). In particular, the program will assist parents in annulling or expunging criminal records that hinder employment. The program will be funded entirely through TANF.
Prohibits a person who desecrates a U.S. flag or state flag from receiving financial assistance.
Makes several changes to the administration of food stamps. In particular, this bill forbids the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) from waiving federal work requirements for food stamps unless approved by the Health and Human Services Oversight Committee. The bill also requires DHHS to use federal limits for food stamp eligibility, rather than state standards, unless there are minor children in the household and the Health and Human Services Oversight Committee approves the alternative eligibility criteria. Lastly, the bill requires food stamp recipients to cooperate with the division of child support services. The Senate amended the bill to add the Granite Workforce pilot program, a work training program for welfare recipients.
Prohibits any member of a foreign terrorist organization from receiving public assistance, medical assistance, or food stamps.
Limits food stamp purchases to milk only at convenience stores and other stores that do not primarily sell staple food items.
Requires drug testing for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients.
Requires a photo on EBT cards.
Prohibits the use of EBT cards at tattoo parlors, smoke shops, and marijuana dispensaries.
Forbids the use of EBT cards or cash from EBT cards for alcohol, tobacco, gambling, lottery tickets, tattoos, firearms, or adult entertainment.
Requires the state to study the feasibility of requiring photo identification on EBT cards.
Forbids the use of EBT cards or cash from EBT cards for alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, firearms, or adult entertainment.
Forbids the use of EBT cards or cash from EBT cards for alcohol or tobacco.
Requires drug testing for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients.
Limits financial assistance for mothers who have additional children while receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The House and Senate amended the bill to instead establish an income and identity verification system for public assistance recipients.
Requires the Department of Health and Human Services to ask the federal government to require photo identification for food stamps.
Should NH add restrictions on welfare recipients?
The 2020-2021 budget charges DHHS with finding ways to relieve the "cliff effect", where individuals who are receiving assistance start working and earn enough income to disqualify them for benefits, and the loss of the benefits leaves them in a worse financial position than they were in when they made less money.
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