Legislative hearings continue on Governor Ed Rendell's proposed $29 billion budget for fiscals 2010-11. That's $1.2 billion more than the current budget. Department of Public Welfare officials came under some tough questioning from House Republicans. Rendell has proposed a $9.7 billion budget for the Welfare Department, an increase of 4.5%.
State Representative Gordon Denlinger of Lancaster county says the size of the Welfare Department's budget is a major concern especially during a tough economic period for the state.
Representative Mauree Gingrich of Lebanon County said loopholes need to be closed...there's lots of waste and significant abuse. She cited a recent report from Auditor General Jack Wagner.
In August, Wagner released an audit showing that a Department of Public Welfare program that provides cash assistance to welfare recipients seeking employment was "rife with mismanagement and poor oversight, creating an environment for potential fraud and abuse that could cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars."
Based on the audit findings, Wagner said that he believed problems in the special allowance program were systemic, meaning they existed in assistance offices in every county in the commonwealth.
In Philadelphia County, the father of five children of a Philadelphia recipient received child care special allowances totaling $7,367 to babysit his own children by changing his name and Social Security Number. In York County, two students at a beauty school each collected $637 for nail supplies that they never purchased.
Representative Doug Reichley of Berks and Lehigh Counties said the governor may have an $850 million hole in his budget proposal. That's because the governor was counting on federal monies in a jobs bill to go to the Welfare Department. That funding has since been removed.