By RICK NORTON
State Rep. Dan Howell’s hardline stand against welfare fraud in Tennessee has earned the Bradley County legislator an award from one of the nation’s leading conservative public policy …
State Rep. Dan Howell’s hardline stand against welfare fraud in Tennessee has earned the Bradley County legislator an award from one of the nation’s leading conservative public policy organizations.
In its recent annual Solutions Summit in Ft. Myers, Fla., the Foundation for Government Accountability recognized the local lawmaker for his ongoing efforts to end welfare fraud.
FGA President and CEO Tarren Bragdon made the presentation while pointing to Howell’s leadership in bringing to fruition Tennessee’s new Program Integrity Act that puts more teeth into the verification process by adding tools that make it possible.
In the Tennessee House of Representatives, Howell’s legislation passed as House Bill 227. Its sister bill in the state Senate was sponsored by Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), and also passed in that Nashville branch.
Howell’s legislation earned a positive nod on the House floor on Feb. 27, as the General Assembly session was nearing its close.
Howell has made no secret of his desire to better watchdog welfare fraud in his home state.
“It is extremely important that we maintain the integrity of the Welfare and Food Stamp programs,” the Georgetown Republican said in accepting the FGA honor. “This is an important safety net for those Tennesseans who may have fallen on hard times and need a helping hand.”
He warned of the big-picture damage created by fraud.
“Those who fraudulently abuse the system are destroying that safety net, and should be caught and prosecuted,” Howell stressed.
HB 227 provides for “enhanced verification,” and this includes additional tools that allow the Tennessee Department of Health and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to cross-reference several existing databases to determine an applicant’s eligibility, Howell explained.
These diverse databases include the Death Registry, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor, among others, he said.
“The departments may also investigate joining a multi-state clearinghouse to ensure applicants are not ‘double-dipping’ by collecting benefits from other states,” Howell cited.
Speaking on behalf of the conservative public-policy group, Bragdon pointed to the benefits of such legislation in the Volunteer State.
“These programs will enable Tennessee to identify and prosecute those individuals who commit welfare fraud, waste and abuse,” Bragdon stated. “FGA appreciates Rep. Howell’s work to preserve these valuable resources for the most vulnerable Tennesseans.”
Howell pointed to the roles played in the bill’s passage by his fellow legislator in the Senate, as well as the support and assistance provided by FGA.
“I am grateful to the FGA for the award and to Sen. Roberts for working to pass the bill in the Senate,” Howell said. “The Foundation for Government Accountability provided invaluable assistance and input in the successful passage of the bill.”
According to background information describing the FGA’s work, the group “… is considered by many to be one of the nation’s leading conservative public-policy organizations which has assisted in passing reforms in 34 states.”
“It is extremely important that we maintain the integrity of the Welfare and Food Stamp programs. This is an important safety net for those Tennesseans who may have fallen on hard times and need a helping hand. Those who fraudulently abuse the system are destroying that safety net, and should be caught and prosecuted." — State Rep. Dan Howell
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