Fingerprinting Proposed to Combat Welfare Fraud in Massachusetts

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SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts  — It’s the latest legislative effort in Massachusetts to try and combat welfare fraud – fingerprinting.

Some lawmakers said that it could save them millions, while others said it criminalizes people for simply asking for help.

There are two sides to the coin here, but many people Western Mass News spoke with Monday agree that those who cheat the state assistance programs are ruining it for the ones who really need the help.

Mass. House Minority Leader Brad Jones is offering a possible solution with fingerprinting.

Many Springfield residents agree that it could be a way to deter fraud.

“A lot of people need it and some people take advantage. I think fingerprinting and drug testing too, anything they can do to get those people out who abuse the system,” said Evelyn Valley.

House lawmakers voted to study the use of fingerprints and other biometric identifiers as part of a pilot project during last week’s budget debate.

Western Mass News reached out to the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance about the matter, but they said until the Senate and House pass the budget and send along to the Governor, they feel it’s too early to comment.

State Representative Jose Tosado, a Democrat, feels that the move would punish those who really need help.

In a statement to Western Mass News, Tosado said, “Mandatory fingerprinting criminalizes the poor and the hungry, creating deep stigmas that follow individuals trying to get by and want to become productive members of the Commonwealth. There are also concerns with storing and using data against individuals who would otherwise have no reason to have their fingerprints or other physical indicators on file. The risks far outweigh the benefits in the long-term.”

No decision will be made until the Senate and House reach a budget compromise, hold a vote, then send it to the governor for his approval or veto.