WRKO>Audio & Video on Demand>>Rep. Shaunna O'Connell On The Misiing 19,000 Welfare Recepients

Rep. Shaunna O'Connell On The Misiing 19,000 Welfare Recepients

Jan 4, 2013|

Massachusetts is scrambling to find as many as 19,000 missing welfare recipients — after the controversial taxpayer-funded voter registration pitches the state mailed to their addresses last summer were sent back marked “Return to sender, address unknown.” We spoke with Massachusetts State Rep. Shaunna O'Connell about welfare reform.

Transcript - will not be 100% accurate

Red faced state officials admitted last night they are trying to find as many as 191000. Missing welfare recipients after the controversial taxpayer funded voter registration pitches. The state mailed to their addresses last summer were sent back. Return to sender address unknowns. The DPA the euphemistically named department of transitional assistance contacted 477. Welfare recipients were on the books. From January -- from June 2011 to may 2012. After settling a voting rights lawsuit. Brought by a democratic leaning activist group led by Grammy Warren's daughter by the way. The 270000. 274000. Dollar push like the PA resulted in 31000 new voter registration but revealed an alarming number of residents. Of welfare recipients whose residency in Massachusetts can't be confirmed. Again assists this has happened in other respects uses this as. Invariably. Happened in other states that have -- -- have attempted to check up on the residency welfare recipients they've discovered that certain big huge numbers of so called welfare recipients did not in fact exist. Shorting us now on the line is represented Sean O'Connell who was a member of the EBT -- Welfare reform commission last year and she's one of the leaders in the legislature of the of the movement to get even more reform. Shawna this this is this is. Shocking news but on the other hand it's not surprising as it. Well you know what I think is probably more shocking how is that we went almost two months without one of these scandals coming out. Yeah it isn't it funny that the it took off for your request Freedom of Information Act request from apparel to get this information out. Yet is closed and outlasts. July August. We probably -- color and. The governor did not call a press conference in the garden or auditorium to announce the results of these these in these. These statistics. Yet interestingly enough but you know here -- -- Department of transitional assistance -- executed on the map again. In you know -- Mexican at the on fox. You know the national -- you know part about this site that's -- -- -- really -- who -- -- regret that it's okay 10 o'clock so people could see you at 10 o'clock on -- show. Yes and you know unfortunately every time I go on at this stage it's sport DDT if you care in Massachusetts. Yeah it it's just you know we like I've mentioned it briefly earlier but you know when Giuliani became mayor of a New York City succeeding David Dinkins in 1993. Gets -- as. He he he immediately said that everybody who was on welfare in New York City was going to have to watch. Show up to war established fact that they really existed. Because that they had that they've been they've been under undertaking this. This crackdown on not appear cheats you know from going for -- Hoboken. To Hoboken, New Jersey to New York City and 25% of the people that they they found jumping d'affaires in New Jersey in Hoboken to get into New York City. Had welfare cards collecting from both new York and New Jersey. So I mean this is this is nothing no this is that this goes back this goes back at least twenty years probably longer than twenty years this is. You're right I -- eyewitnesses say that -- Just keep coming with new way to scam the system but it's bad happening ever since we started a welfare system. And you know it it's big business and people -- -- -- -- scanning system and it ruined it for the people who really need this help. And so we're talking -- 191000 people are tallied yet but. That's a real conservative estimate and say that they only get 400 dollars a month in benefits. That's seven point six million dollars a month. 91 million dollars a year and we don't even know we are these people that we don't even now they -- passage. We don't even though they lived period. That crew -- But some fat somebody is having I think this I think -- don't think it's safe to assume some -- that somebody is using that checked that is already got another card. In that they're they're just using this card and a yeah they're they're using it to to -- the court to using it to go over the border into in to New Hampshire to buy the buy beer is we've heard. For the clubs in the in the warrants are or just using it you know for themselves. That. Why yeah we have no idea what you're using four and you know that's that's what we keep -- over America. All of this has been taken out and admit that probably -- exit people who get catch people who gets snapped. And you know all sorts of other benefits to. And so we have real real problem here and you know it we got the fox started and I'll. So it's difficult to get importance and it takes months and months to get a big dance around it. But every time we got that we find these used candles he's a piece on fraud in the system. And in fact it's just the -- and I hear from some people even people that are on welfare that are asked about it. They don't want. Now no they don't I mean I I don't know of anybody who likes who likes this -- system we have here. And you know I mentioned earlier last week I was having lunch with somebody for down -- Florida you know while I was -- nice -- -- by the way you know I'm not I'm not ashamed to say that. And this woman was saying that she went she went shopping for duped by higher something for her husband that I haven't -- And by the time she got to the women's store in the in the same mall worship -- where should bought the tie. Her credit card that you used by the -- had been canceled. Because they said you'd ever go to war a man's a clothing store. So we figured someone stole on the card so we canceled a cart now why can't we have some kind of you know what system like that here in in Massachusetts. We can't even get them to say you can't spend it over in Hawaii or Florida I -- we're working against the -- here. You know these people are supposed at the PGA -- as a success in the post victory monthly checks on every single person in this program. We DOR. Although that wouldn't work -- cannot filing taxes are working. And as several other agencies they're supposed to be doing yearly verification and if you if we can't forward your mail on the -- that I at least the year gone by if you actually moved about a draft. So it's been over a year that you people have not had any kind of check on weird day. We have what their eligibility status is. One way with the -- What I don't understand so if if the if you can't forward it forward it it's still keeps coming even know even though that the -- comes back. They still -- sentiment another chat another rock hard the next month is that right. But you don't even need a heartbeat -- Abbott. It's a credit card you just -- art and it's it's it's loaded with money every month you know so a lot you have to be physically present anywhere. And it is it's about. So so there's nothing the US mail has nothing to do with this this is nothing about return to sender address unknown. This is just this is just that somehow the scar these voter registration cards to people. -- -- the picket sign them and they and they discovered that nineteen what what is what is the 191001 percentage of about it what percentage is battled the of the total EBT population. 4%. Which is a lot of money we're talking about here. 4% of the total EDT population cannot it cannot be accounted for. Right and that's just the ones -- -- and return back and that's only you know what they told us about it I ever. Sorry and very skeptical that always get all the information. Back -- those around on these issues. So I want to let us senate action on I and I can't help at other positions you know that's where it's -- So that -- there's more going on in the CI. Especially when we know that we are all these drug busts. In cities like Quincy in -- standards for pretty -- People that are trapped in their car. There's a lot of eligibility. -- products are out there and no one's going after it so that's why -- -- in filing legislation again this year. It would -- more we're gonna go after. Has eligibility requirements for asset verification and identity verification. As assistant exist out there other states -- using them and doing very well and and we should be doing things. You know why why I don't understand this about the the liberals in Massachusetts you know you had. Last year you guys were proposing that you you put the photo IDs on these carts. You know. And India we were told all of these all these people come up from BBT districts. EBP heavy districts and they say we can't afford to have. What is -- seven dollars. Scorecard -- to have a to have a -- photo widely but we can't afford. To give away apparently my 81 million dollars a year to people who don't exist. You know any any reforms we do any change that we make to the system will pay put himself in -- states. And getting people off this system that shouldn't be on it in the first place. And it sorry about what people are asking for money that they're they're using it for what they say they need -- -- But let me give you another soccer here but -- not to listen -- will be shocked at this point. Some if you if you add to this program for cash assistance. You can say that you'd -- on your uncle counts -- AMP 400 bucks a month for -- and all you need to know from your uncle same. And that's you're verification. Insulin then that way you get an extra three or 400 dollars an hour. However they calculate it so that's calculated at one of your expenses yeah. So you know somebody could go say they have a import and -- hey -- heard about some of which actually have a you can just. -- -- Right -- I've seen some of the print -- from the so called welfare advocates who say. Just could use anybody's. Electric bill. To prove your residence and then that way you can go on you you can go one -- the be the cart program. There's you know. It's itself frustrated because there weren't who have all the information and it's difficult for us to get it even when you're -- legislature. You know people -- -- except for the fact that not turning a blind eye to all the taxpayer money that is being fraudulently given away. And we have a much better system where we could really be actually helping people get better education and get job training get off a assistance but they're just to be absolutely -- will. -- get people offer assistance which should really be the goal of what's called for additional assistance. It's just. I can't believe that the you know you know they always say and in The Herald -- again this morning I think that. Deval Patrick may not be may not be inclined to reform the system because he was raised on welfare. I mean you would think that somebody who was raised half a farewell wanna get the thing cleaned up more than somebody wasn't raised on welfare which -- here. You would think so I don't know what kind of welfare you know assistance programs it was great contact. -- -- I mean I grew up and public housing with my mom and my brother and my sister and we -- you know certain kinds of assistance and so yeah I'd been there I understand why it like to live like that and it's it was like to live in the neighborhoods. And what mentality that some people so I believe they have and here it is so desperate and not be fair I have worked very hard and feel lucky to be where I am today. But these the story of the people here you can get to a better place and life. And -- a lot of people that I grew up but are still in the same bites. Because it's hard to beat the system it's it's addictive -- mandatory. You become dependent on it and you're afraid to leave it. Where we're not trying to teach people to leave this system we're teaching them to depend on the system and stay on the fifth. That -- music at a few phone calls strong. This is the elites or in The Herald today the other -- filed late Freedom of Information Act request to find out how many. Of the people who were contacted. In the in the mailing that was was ordered art which were acquired under the lawsuit filed by -- Warren's. Daughter during the height of the campaign. Actually show actually exist and it turns out that 191000. Of the people getting EBT carts were getting beat the cards do not exist. Believe it or not they do. -- but I think that's is it safe to say shot they do not exist. Well you know I've I've actually the letter today to department and the answer is saying look unique to immediately take these people off the system. It is continued their benefits right now. And if they do it is -- -- again -- that statement got to report to the DPS office to be reinstated. Right about fingerprints that I mean if we can't afford. If we can add a word to what take a photo one of them how about we can afford to take their fingerprints -- might. But you shot my fingerprints are on file. You know I mean why why -- people on welfare have their fingerprints on file. What I thought that the work in federal court before the court reporter and as they go through thick and process to work in the court. So those of us who have jobs and word law abiding citizens -- last we have to give helped bring your -- what about everybody who doesn't work. What about everybody whose body of law abiding citizen why don't they have to give their fingerprints. Well up -- how we -- just you know. I need to support for the -- I'm gonna file but it's. It's got to be the asset verification and an eligibility verification that we can't do it's feasible if you look older systems out there. And also I believe that we need to -- sort of people are paying their rent. Online and we can benefit system to do that. And I think anybody that we invest in those kind of programs are gonna say about a lot of money in the long -- and both of things that taxpayers say yes I want to. You know because I don't want people on this system that don't belong are. 18774694322. If you're wondering I like I was giving us some -- somewhat letters from inmates and that they wanted to see whose whose fingerprints war on these letters threatening letters from inmates. So I had to go around Albany street to give my Mike fingerprints. But this is the way this way it works for a law abiding citizen you know sooner or later under whatever circumstances you give up your fingerprints right. -- and I I had no problem with the I wanted to get to the bottom what the problem is and I did. And you know I I don't see why people we're getting a free ride on the taxpayers. Have any. Have any reason to to turn down the opportunity. To to give up their fingerprints to prove that they're legitimate welfare claimants. You know -- the information and other people on this program is protected like it is -- top secret government. Clearance information. And you just can't get a IQ I have heard from so many law enforcement officers police officers out there. That's say they try to turn people -- for trafficking. And one officer actually wrote -- that I have to jump through hoops. Corporate court -- on ballots are to traffic this card. And they really impressed popped open network and a follow up with -- you have no idea what happened and you don't want to force officer. And so you know they get to the point where they say why should -- and author. Try to report these people or any stripe to this so called fraud hotlines when nothing ever happens people. Right EDT day the people that work for them are the ones that conduct these so called hearings. To decide whether you're actually guilty of arms program violation. And they have no instructs and I think people killed the program -- It's and so it doesn't happen very. It's it's like the police departments that that keeps stopping illegal aliens you know that that that have no award drivers' licenses and ID you know leave and finally the chief they they go to the they go to district court you know and the and the the illegal aliens don't show up so there's an arrest warrant issued -- issue for them under. A fake name. And eventually the cops get tired of dealing with -- and it's costing the police too much money yet that pay the overtime for the cops to go and they just give up. And so. And so -- words if you or I get stopped for driving without license. We get we get Paul glad we get handcuffed our cars Capote but in illegal alien is slept all. I got it's it's our backers are out of science and you know that that there's another. Program it's called the war reform act of 2002 I've been contacted by. A couple of state police officers and several other police officers. Saying that if this was not being followed they're supposed to. You -- -- of all. Well. There recipients there's they have -- catch everything to see if they have any warrants on their names and and you're supposed to -- that offer benefits. That they don't clear that warrants and -- they have commented clear that they cleared the warrants. And it just is happening. Seven anyone says Bank of America requires you to give a fingerprint the cash -- check. And I 617 I don't know about the rest of the statement in the city of Boston for gun license you have to have fingerprints and picture on the cart. -- if you know a gun license you're asking to pay. The city and state money right -- -- may have tighter requirements that may have big give you money on welfare card. -- you're right it makes most sense it's absolutely. Quartz. Marco your next with how we car and thus they represented -- O'Connell gore had Marco. So all -- -- -- Friend that worked out for ths then this jobless. -- -- To investigate. These you know. EDT food stamp fraud. And what that was knows what happens is the personal caught and they lose that part for six months and then they get back. Yeah I mean that doesn't happen often -- not. Hate it -- it it spoke about that that's happened that it wanted to punishments that you amnesia about that. But we we you know we have -- for all 400000 households on now we have 77000 council podcasts assistants. And we have you know. How many are coming on cash assistance. Haven't thought about it hopeful yeah I think that translates into double the number of people. Aren't -- assistant democratically household. And you know we may have 500 program violations the year. Yeah it and that's a very very low number. So there are looking as mark process. Yeah yeah he said that he was saying that you know frustrating goes to you know -- the six months -- Eric back at it again. Oh. And now I what he did though I mean you know why Deval Patrick says everything that everything we're talking about here is an anecdote. Right trying to. Forty -- The US mail is Eric there since. And you know I say that that the worst part is that there are truly need to. Out there who aren't getting the assistance they need. Because there's not enough money to go around. Because there are so many people that are possibly in this system and you would think that the advocates -- would be fighting for those that are really in need. And -- really fighting against -- wants getting to this system wants them. But they're not they wanna keep that out. Thanks for the call Marco Joseph -- next with how -- car and stay representative Sean O'Connell from pond go ahead Joseph. Or notes -- mentioned -- -- them -- or Markel mentioned about gun. Took a friend of mine nine months to get registered for -- Soviet State the state money. To guarantee is -- constitutional right and it's -- learning. What these people were not even paying attention. -- -- -- It's it's ridiculous and the representative pointed out all this money you're not going towards people legitimately needed it there are many. -- are disappearing they're going to criminals. Yeah it is that we we've been having a big issue -- people getting there there firearms and their ID cards and a timely manner and where we're trying to. Actually -- -- You mention it. But you know yet beat the oversight is its. Sorely missing in this program it's really just mismanaged. And if we could be doing a much better job at managing our public assistance program and it's not just snap that is not just CDT it is asked how it's. -- -- every single public assistance program out there that is being abused and you'll see people have got to really just. Step up and fix these programs but it's you know it's not a lot in the third rail of politics a lot of people aren't willing to talk. Why is the third rails for a -- that's when I don't know I I don't get it I mean somebody is somebody like you -- that Tony is in the country illegally. Getting welfare that she's not entitled to and somehow -- as somehow -- as an awful -- racist or nativist. If you if you call or how on why is that. I think it's exactly that Massachusetts has publicly that they get certificates. But you know -- stick to doing a great job but those states like Florida have really stepped up their efforts. So you know something to Hillary at Massachusetts it's got a policy because we're we're in trouble right now we're in financial trouble with that huge deficit problem. And we've got money here and it's going to people. Who are. Don't alarm on the system who are using it for drug and alcohol and some you know -- unfortunately it's -- it's very bad habits of people and children. Are going without. If someone wants to know how added a or reasonable person like -- get a get elected it. Because your opponent -- was not a reasonable person he made a few what terrible speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives but that's. And you were reelect this year so that's that's its it was a a fluke shall we say. Jack your next with how we car and -- Sean O'Connell from or plot your next go ahead -- it. Yeah yeah really touched a nerve with a fingerprint in -- tied UPS strapped to -- tree is over the last two times very do my license back at the jets and are about a yup which sort. -- -- Now -- penetrating and -- fingerprinted. -- everytime I agree oh yeah regarded as you do -- you the everybody have to get it all this media outlets that it's a printed it yet we could never ate our tallest. Right. Don't you want I don't you know you you what mine and -- we all have given her fingerprints were second class citizens compared to welfare recipients. Right we don't have as many rights as welfare recipients. It's it's are such as security -- and it didn't work to do you support I -- why -- -- keep track at least -- -- crazy. It is and you know a part of the problem is that these these program violations and once -- actually. I cited for violations that the program are all kept very quiet and hidden from the public. And I don't think that's the right out the public it's publicly funded. Program taxpayer dollars taxpayer should know what's going on. -- how it would cost to turn the program over to visa or MasterCard or discovery rack Amex. And end. I surely it would be a lot cheaper than bid battle knowing all this fraud and abuse to take place under the under DDT. Today. Well you know I mean it -- about a program on it and what look like a that we we did investigate entity that cash was system and it just. At this point in time the technology even know I don't think it is and I Arafat situation it is about it's not quite there yet. And you know people could still get cash fact. Or if they'll make it buys something yeah. So I don't think it would be much different this sport exit those other -- people back. Our programs are not JPMorgan on on the Xerox. That we have vendors. You know I don't know what they would do differently then. Well of course it would have oversight. By I did inquire about about turning it over Q and privatizing it. And what is so. You know that that wouldn't really change things at this point by the -- however. I don't think. Probably all of the information and a consultant once. The best of me. 18774694322. Can you come back after the break sharper took top of the hour. Okay hold on doc talked to Cindy will be right back with Sean O'Connell talking about the yeah. The latest EB ET scandal and now Massachusetts 018774694322. -- now are. 18774693221. Of the movies you may have seen over the past. Christmas holiday season as a miracle on 34 street and John -- the warrior for Chris crying girl who's about to be sent away to war mental institution. Pixel these letters from. From the post office and -- from on the judges' desk and says. You know what judge. This proves that these workers were sent from my client. So that proves that the United States government thinks that thinks that this. This man my client is is Chris Kringle IE Santa Claus and a beaver state infidels says beaver state opinion says so one -- they wanted to take the 191000 letters and palpable on couple months Deval Patrick's desk. And say Governor Patrick this obviously approved some in. Proves that the United States Postal Service doesn't think that these 191000 people accessed they don't exist. They may exist under different names but these are these are reach either fraudulent names for the but of course that would be racist nativist homophobic mean spirited class list what every one name. Sean O'Connell is with us the state rep from. Pot and she's led the fight to reform the EPT cards in the state of Massachusetts. You know you could you you can't seem to make any progress shot Kenya with the the way things are in this state one that this one party system we have. You know it's that the -- I mean we we evolve and progress last year we reduction -- restricted we we did get some -- week we've got. Traffic laws. So you know we're on our way we're working toward it it's better than what happens collapse or ears which it absolutely nothing. And you know it's really bad people that it wanted to decent reforms -- The past three years we've really approached a lot harder. -- band has been done in the past select which got a lot further. And with the people you know rally behind the -- they have not one of the reasons we've got -- passes last year. And with and doing it again this year we will get something -- I'm. I feel very optimistic about -- violent and that I forest and I know a lot of our colleagues on the show our points to fight on with me. Have a text here for -- 57. How we are used to volunteer at the Hyde Park pantry food. Food -- the Hyde Park food pantry and number of years ago. The fraud there was unbelievable to people from Dorchester -- pin etc. were frequent flyers and the like begin asking to see some might be only for HB residents. Suddenly we were down clients by half until management told me to stop asking for ID. When asked client said they had eight and ten kids etc. etc. etc. I left in disgust. You know this -- -- and I mean this is the your food pantry a lot of that is up private donations people trying to do the right thing you know restaurants bakeries with left -- products they try to do the right thing and then there's this is what happens I mean -- people take advantage of the situation. And that's a small example there at the -- committed but that's what happened everywhere it's like. Okay -- saying anything turn the turn a blind I would yet question whether people -- really eligible. We can't question what they need this help or not but just give it up. And you know bat that it is estimated Apple's system overwhelmed bit. And now we don't -- good programs that we used to have -- you know education and workforce trying. That would it's. It's easier to get the money. And turn it away and the taxpayers -- to keep footing the bill. Right in the will keep putting the bill when they have to be arrested in the when they have to be tried -- with public defenders in the and they have to be incarcerated. Etc. etc. etc. I mean it's just you know you create this giant that string of dependency. You know one in the each day each one of these people that's it's produced many of them many of them the Warren took to create more welfare payments they end up costing millions and millions of dollars to the taxpayers. Sean you're next with Howie -- go ahead John. Our shot I shot -- question for -- I look at her and noticing a major -- provider in the city of Boston I probable seventeen -- I've seen more waste and fraud that's the way he wanted to acquire the outfield do you drive a Cadillac Escalade. Do you have a fifties TV. You have nine people living out. And they're so. How spirit what are you -- -- Eric -- why are you were asking why do you wanna ask such means to what it's. You know that your took thirteen is the year to be mean spirited the year get you know what we -- a -- -- election. And we'll get screwed and no I'm living like that out that the people think of a quarter. You look -- what figured out and then -- came forward. And they laughed at me because that work tonight about the morning go to war document and it you know what it's got to end. They're people who work for a living you know we've got additional time. But you know what people are really PO and you know what we start -- -- elect new people they're -- we'll check out how -- -- put. Senate again thank you run for governor. -- Sure why would really. Show on why didn't people vote people people do this stuff was going on last last November we've been talking about it for months at the time. -- -- Beckman it's affecting -- either have a good collection and elevate -- and I think I quote liberally I vote was Italy and -- A guy who I really respect over that one. The hot thank you I appreciate that show and that's way to vote or not. -- idea how he -- that hasn't been as much about national conversation and I think the more national competition. The bad for the -- and taxpayers because this crosses all party lines. All economic lines and so many people. Our geographical lines through this is normal every state in the union no question and. You know this is I want a lot of issues but it's a -- -- bigger issues that and I worked on and you know my recollection was very close that you know my technical and what -- we -- I know I know what shot up thanks for being with a -- O'Connell will be talking more with terrorists as the year goes on as she tries to reform EBT cards somehow we are.