ANNAPOLIS – The Senate Finance Committee unanimously recommended a welfare reform bill Friday that will require employers to report new hires monthly instead of quarterly, among other provisions.
Lynda Fox, deputy secretary of the Department of Human Resources, said the measure will cut down on fraud by recipients who fail to report their income and make it easier to collect child support. Similar requirements in Massachusetts have resulted in savings of $40 million, she said.
Fox said the bill will also provide lump-sum payments in lieu of monthly benefits to some applicants and make child care available while welfare recipients look for work. Currently, only Anne Arundel County, through a federal grant, provides such child-care assistance.
The measure scraps a law passed last year that would have given participants in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore certain special benefits, including two years’ medical assistance instead of one after finding employment.
The department is waiting for the outcome of this year’s legislation before implementing that program, according to Beth Boyd, a department official.
Before the vote, advocates for welfare recipients tried but failed to raise benefit levels. Current maximum monthly benefits for a family of three are $373, down from $406 in 1990.
Sen. Larry Young, D-Baltimore, cast the sole dissenting vote on an amendment that would include the income of a legal immigrant’s sponsor when calculating the immigrant’s benefits.
When Young asked what would happen to the immigrant’s children in the event the sponsor failed to fulfill his or her commitment of support, the entire committee room fell silent for several seconds.
“That is potentially problematic,” Fox said. Gov. Parris N. Glendening has given the bill his approval and will seek its adoption in the full Senate and by the House, a spokesman said. -30-