April 19, 2014

House Committee digs into welfare contract

A state representative says he’s completely dissatisfied with a contract between the Department of Social Services and a Boston-based firm that he says would trap some Missourians permanently in a life of poverty.

Representative Jay Barnes (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Jay Barnes (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability, chaired by Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) has heard testimony on a contract the state has with Public Consulting Group to evaluate state public assistance recipients to see if they are eligible for federal disability programs. The company says it can save Missouri up to $80 million a year. The contract would pay PCG $2300 for every Missourian moved onto disability payments from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Barnes says unlike on TANF, where recipients must meet certain work requirements, people on the federal program are not likely to look for work because that would hurt their eligibility for federal benefits. He says that calls into question the morality of the contract.

“Should the State of Missouri be paying a private company be paying money for a private company to shift folks who are down on their luck into a program that will trap them in poverty, likely forever?”

Barnes says PCG is looking at three categories of recipients, one of which he agrees includes people whose medical records confirm their disability status and that they will never work again.

“The second two categories are people for whom PCG is being paid to build an administrative law court case to get these disability benefits.” He adds, many of those decisions would have to go to appeal to be finalized.

Social Services Department Deputy Director Brian Kinkade

Social Services Department Deputy Director Brian Kinkade testifies to the House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability

Representative Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) argues the shifts from state to federal benefits will also pile on to a program the federal government can’t afford.

“You can call it revenue maximization or getting people onto the right program. At the end of the day, if we take the spin off of it, the state is spending money to put people onto a broke federal program.”

Social Services Deputy Director Brian Kinkade says his department and the contract deal with the laws as they are written.

“I think the question is whether they are eligible for the benefit under federal law, and if they are then they should receive it.”

Barnes says following Monday’s hearing, he isn’t sure what his next action will be.