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Friday, May 4, 2012

Capitol Watch: Welfare limits wanted by House, tough sell in Senate

CONCORD – A House-approved move to reduce the lifetime limit for New Hampshire residents to collect welfare got stopped in its tracks by a powerful Senate committee Thursday.

The measure, HB 263, would reduce the lifetime limit for those collecting Temporary Assistance to Needy Families from five years to three.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Morse, R-Salem, said there’s no evidence that New Hampshire residents are maxing out benefits for years upon years at a time.

The average length of time spent on welfare is 19 months.

Federal welfare reform in the mid-1990s placed a lifetime limit of five years on benefits but allowed states to chose shorter terms.

Massachusetts has a 24-month limit on benefits, but that applies only during a five-year period. After that point, recipients can then get another two years of benefits in that state for the second five years and so on.

Vermont and Maine have no time limit, and Rhode Island has a 48-month limit.

The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend sending this bill to interim study.

This is commonly seen as polite death for a bill, because it means supporters would have to start all over again with a new measure before a newly elected Legislature and new governor in 2013.

The full Senate will vote on this recommendation next week.