HARRISONBURG — A group of Republicans in the House of Delegates say they will push for the most extensive state welfare overhaul in 20 years when the General Assembly convenes Jan. 11.

The reform proposals made so far focus on eligibility requirement and security issues, not on reducing benefits. No welfare reform bills have yet been filed, but Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, is pushing for the measures to be part of a wider health care bill.

“We looked at what other states are doing to make our welfare system stronger,” Landes said. “We want to make sure the resources go to the people who need and qualify for those resources instead of to the people who are trying to take advantage of the system.”

Landes said he and fellow Republicans want to place eligibility requirements for welfare into the Virginia Code so they aren’t so easily changed from governor to governor.

“Any change in the future would require coming back to the legislature,” he said.

The proposed Republican reforms would limit lifetime eligibility for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to a year or two instead of the current five.

“Right now, we have people going on and off repeatedly, making it more permanent than it is intended to be,” Landes said.

Adults who are physically able to work but don’t have jobs would be required to spend 20 hours per week with volunteer organizations or in job training, which Landes said would help foster work ethics and self-sufficient attitudes in welfare recipients.

Another provision would try to keep state lottery winners from becoming welfare recipients if their payouts are big enough to change their eligibility status.

“We’ve seen several other states do this, crosscheck applicants with the lottery,” Landes said.

And the legislation would place photo IDs on electronic benefit transfer cards and require audits of households that request more than four replacement EBT cards within any 12 months as ways to make sure recipients aren’t selling cards, he said.

Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, and Del. Tony Wilt, R-Weyers Cave, said that in general they support the idea of making the welfare system more secure. But they also said they wanted to look at the specifics of the yet-unwritten bills before commenting on them.

The larger health care bill would seek to prevent Gov. Terry McAuliffe from attempting to expand the Medicaid program, a source of contention between the Democratic governor and GOP-controlled legislature during his term.

The bill also would contain a series of proposals aimed at reducing opiate addiction, including limits on how physicians can prescribe narcotic painkillers.

Contact Tony Brown at 574-6286 or tbrown@dnronline.com

(1) comment

Bill Jones

Delegate Tony Wilt is not from Weyers Cave, Delegate Steve Landes is the House Member from Weyers Cave. Does the Editor proof read these articles before they go to print?

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