Senate Passes Bill to Enhance Eligibility Verification Process for Missouri’s Public Assistance Programs
Along with continuing the discussion on ethics reform, this week the Missouri Senate successfully advanced a number of measures to the House for further consideration. Bills pertaining to Missouri’s public assistance programs, telehealth and concealed carry permits were among those passed.
On Thursday, we passed Senate Bill 607, legislation requiring the Department of Social Services (DSS) to contract with a third party to verify eligibility for Missouri’s public assistance programs, including SNAP, TANF, child care assistance and MO HealthNet. Currently, DSS employees are supposed to verify an individual’s eligibility for each program at least once a year. Unfortunately, the labor-intensive and time-consuming process they must go through makes it difficult for them to do so in a timely manner, which has resulted in substantial backlogs. The DSS simply does not have the manpower or data processing capabilities to keep pace with the thousands of benefit applications they are required to process.
Under SB 607, a third-party contractor will conduct quarterly evaluations of a person’s income, resources and assets. On a monthly basis, the contractor will identify any program participants who have died, moved out of state or been incarcerated longer than 90 days. The DSS will retain final determination of eligibility.
States such as Illinois and Pennsylvania have already used private contractors and saved millions of dollars as a result. Rather than continuing to funnel program funds to deceased individuals or people who have moved out of Missouri, SB 607 will make Missouri’s verification process more efficient, effective and save us money. We will be better positioned to assist those who really need help once we have put a stop to the waste and fraud that is able to occur when benefit recipients slip through the cracks.
Also on Thursday, we passed Senate Bill 656 to keep the processing fee for concealed carry permit applications set at a reasonable amount and allow military members extra time to renew their permits. Current Missouri law states that an applicant for a concealed carry permit may be charged a processing fee up to $100. Senate Bill 656 simply specifies that no additional fee may be charged, including any fee for fingerprinting or criminal background checks.
Finally, we voted to send legislation expanding telehealth services to the House. Telehealth, or telemedicine, is the delivery of health care services via information and communication technologies. It is generally more cost-effective and provides communities, especially those in rural areas, with greater access to high-quality medical care, specialists and some of the latest medical technologies. Senate Bill 621 expands the number of providers and health care sites that are eligible to provide telehealth services under Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet.
Helpful Consumer Financial Information
This week, the Heartland Credit Union Association offers information to help you avoid tax scams. The start of tax filing season means the start of tax scam season, and this year the scams are expected to be worse than ever. The HCUA offers these tips to avoid getting scammed this tax season.
Tax Phishing Email Be careful of ‘phishing’ scams. Criminals may pose as a financial institution, credit card company, tax software provider or government agency and go to great lengths to appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. These criminals hope victims will take the bait to get the victim’s money, passwords, Social Security number and identity. For more information on phishing scams, click here.
Tax Phone Scam Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers. It’s important to remember the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, or even call without first having mailed you a bill. They also will not call asking for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, or threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups. For more information on tax phone scams, click here.
Choose Tax Preparers Carefully
It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by preparers who don’t understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to in order to increase their fee. For more information about tax preparers, click here.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2173. You may write to me at Senator Ron Richard, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol Ave., Rm. 326, Jefferson City, MO 65101; e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit me on the Web at www.senate.mo.gov/richard.
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