Pickett Endorses Proposal to Prevent LIHEAP Fraud
HARRISBURG – To help ensure that taxpayer money set aside to help those in need is not wasted by those who are defrauding the system, Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) voted in favor of legislation that applies income verification to the state’s home heating and winter weatherization programs.

“Northern Tier residents appreciate any financial help they can get to help keep their homes warm during our cold weather months,” Pickett said. “Unfortunately, state audits have shown that money that should be rightfully going to help those in need are being wasted by those who are not eligible for state programs or who are deliberately abusing the system. This legislation helps put in place important checks and balances so every dollar in aid can help those who are most in need.”

House Bill 1991, which Pickett co-sponsored, would help detect and prevent fraud in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the state Weatherization Program, which assists residents in home efficiency updates. Specifically, it would require the use of the Income Eligibility Verification System (IEVS) to determine the eligibility of applicants.

The legislation is a direct result of a state audit revealing that 549 recipients who received $162,000 in benefits used the Social Security numbers of people who were deceased, among other findings.

The legislation would also protect whistle-blowers and apply criminal penalties to employees and contractors who knew about the fraud and abuse and did nothing to stop it. Finally, the proposal would close a loophole in the programs to prevent conflicts of interest.

“At a time when every dollar is stretched to its maximum benefit, state-run initiatives like LIHEAP and the Weatherization Program become even more important,” Pickett said. “That’s why we must make sure that these programs operate with the highest integrity, and this legislation seeks to do just that.”

The bill, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on Monday, now heads to the state Senate for consideration. This legislation is in addition to several welfare reform measures that passed the House last year.

State Representative Tina Pickett
110th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
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