Free Wheels For Welfare In "Taxechuesettes"
John A. Quayle
blueoval57 at VERIZON.NET
Sun May 10 22:44:24 MDT 2009
Free cars for poor fuel road rage
By Hillary Chabot
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Gov. Deval Patrick's free wheels for welfare recipients program is revving
up despite the stalled economy, as the keys to donated cars loaded with
state-funded insurance, repairs and even AAA membership are handed out to
get them to work.
But the program - fueled by a funding boost despite the state's fiscal
crash - allows those who end up back on welfare to keep the cars anyway.
"It's mind-boggling. You've got people out there saying, 'I just lost my
job. Hey, can I get a free car, too?' " said House Minority Leader Brad
Jones (R-North Reading).
The Patrick administration decided last month to funnel an additional
$30,000 to the nearly $400,000 annual car ownership program.
The program, which is provided by the State Department of Transitional
Assistance, gives out about 65 cars a year, said DTA Commissioner Julia Kehoe.
The state pays for the car's insurance, inspection, excise tax, title,
registration, repairs and a AAA membership for one year at a total cost of
roughly $6,000 per car.
The program, which started in 2006, distributes cars donated by non-profit
charities such as Good News Garage, a Lutheran charity, which also does the
repair work on the car and bills the state.
Kehoe defended the program, saying the state breaks even by cutting welfare
payments to the family - about $6,000 a year.
"If you look at the overall picture, this helps make sure people aren't
staying on cash assistance. It's a relatively short payment for a long-term
benefit," Kehoe said.
But Kehoe admitted about 20 percent of those who received a car ended up
back on welfare, and while they lose the insurance and other benefits, they
don't have to return the car.
"Given the state's fiscal condition, paying for AAA and auto inspection
costs is outrageous," said Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei
(R-Wakefield). "There are so many families out there trying to deal with
layoffs and pay cuts. You have to wonder what the state's priorities are at
Applicants for cars must have a job or prove they could get one if they had
the car in order to qualify. Once they have the wheels, they must send DTA
their pay stubs to prove they are employed.
To get the cars, they must be unable to reach work by public transportation
and have a clean driving record. The program is only available to families
on welfare with children.
Kehoe said the bulk of cars go to places with less public transportation,
such as Fitchburg, New Bedford and Lowell.
"I can't believe there are no restrictions on how they use the car," Jones
said. "I just don't see this as a core function of government."
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