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2005-2006 Legislative Testimony

The following are examples of legislative testimony provided on behalf of NASW-MA during the 2005-2006 legislative session:

  • An Act to Increase the Personal Care Allowance for Residents of Long Term Care Facilities HB 2892
    Rebekah Gewirtz, June 2005
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act Relative to Responsible Welfare Reform HB 3866, SB 71
    Rebekah Gewirtz, June 2005
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act to Establish the Health Access and Affordability SB 738
    Rebekah Gewirtz, June 2005
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act to Raise the Minimum Wage HB 3782
    Rebekah Gewirtz, June 2005
    (READ TESTIMONY)

  • An Act Relative to Treatment versus Incarceration HB 3556
    Dorothy Weitzman, June 2005
    (READ TESTIMONY)


An Act to Increase the Personal Care Allowance for Residents of Long Term Care Facilities (HB 2892)

June 22, 2005
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of House Bill 2892: Increase the Personal Care Allowance

To the Committee on Health Care Financing:

I would like to supplement the testimony offered by my colleague Frank Baskin in favor of H2892, An Act to Increase the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) for Residents of Long Term Care Facilities. More than 10 years ago the PNA was reduced from $72.80 per month to $60 per month and has not been changed since. As a result, the burden on the elderly living in these facilities has been substantial. In real dollars, adjusted for inflation, $60 per month in 1991 dollars is equivalent to around $35 now. This is unconscionable.

While Medicaid pays for most health care and some other expenses, it does not pay for personal items like clothes, shoes, telephone and stamps. In addition, residents must pay for some health care costs like ordinary dental and podiatry care. On $60 per month it is hard to imagine how this is even close to being possible. Interestingly, almost ALL residents contribute to the cost of their care by using their pensions/social security for the nursing or rest home. $60 of their monthly income is put aside for their own PNA and the state reimburses the facility for that amount. Raising this amount just a few dollars per month would cost very little to the state but would mean a tremendous amount to the elders living in these facilities who are on the brink of poverty if not down right impoverished, now.

As a Commonwealth we have an obligation to our senior citizens. Many have spent their entire lives contributing to the greater good of this state; to short change them at the time when they need the most care is something we should reject and something we have an obligation to correct. If fully funded, raising the PNA will cost about $5 million, half of which will be reimbursed by the Federal Government.

I strongly urge you to report this bill favorably from committee and actively support an increase in the PNA for nursing and rest home residents.

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

An Act Relative to Responsible Welfare Reform (HB 3866, SB 71)

June 14, 2005
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of Senate Bill 71: Responsible Welfare Reform

To the Committee on Children and Families:

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) - Massachusetts Chapter, a membership organization of 8,400 Social Workers throughout the state, I would like to convey strong support for Senate Bill 71 and House Bill 3866, The Responsible Welfare Reform bill. Passage of this bill will protect cash assistance to certain families and provide necessary services and work supports to parents with disabilities. It will also amend the state law to comply with federal requirements while being sensitive to the needs of the poorest citizens in the state. In an era of such dramatic and unprecedented service cuts that have had significant adverse affects on the poor, a responsible welfare reform bill is both timely and essential.

There are several provisions of S71 and H3866 which are directly in line with the core mission and values of NASW that I would like to take a moment to highlight. Specifically, this bill will directly impact parents with disabilities, parents caring for a family member with disabilities, teen parents attending school, caretakers age 60 and older, women in the third trimester of pregnancy, and parents of children between the ages of 1 and 2. It will create a "separate state program" so recipients with substantial barriers to employment can remain exempt from the work requirement without jeopardizing the state's ability to receive the full block grant from the federal government. S71 and H3866 will also restore TAFDC eligibility for legal immigrants who lost their benefits in 2002 and allow parents to participate in education and training programs as a work activity for up to 12 months.

NASW has long considered counting education and training towards the work requirement a priority since this allows parents to more adequately address barriers to employment by affording them the opportunity to get better, more highly paid jobs that offer a career ladder and a chance at long term success.

Ultimately, the state needs to make various adjustments to its TAFDC program and the adjustments proposed in this legislation are consistent with the values of NASW. We strongly support this measure and I would urge you to report it out of committee favorably.

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

An Act to Establish the Health Access and Affordability Act (SB 738)

June 8, 2005
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of Senate Bill 738: Establish the Health Access and Affordability Act

To the Committee on Health Care Financing,

On behalf of NASW-Massachusetts Chapter, an active membership organization of 8,400 Social Workers throughout the state, I would like to express strong support for Senate Bill 738. This bill would establish affordable and accessible health care for individuals with household income less than 200% of the poverty level and expand access to MassHealth. Additionally, it would provide premium assistance to those with employer-sponsored insurance, which is a key component of the legislation for many working families.

S738 is important to NASW because we believe it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that income and ability to pay does not exclude anyone from getting the health coverage they need. Indeed, MassHealth recipients in particular have been suffering from countless cuts made since 2001. Some of these cuts include loss of access to eyeglasses, hearing aides, dental care, and prosthetics. In one of the wealthiest states in the country it simply does not make sense to further penalize our state¡¦s poorest citizens and not correct the injustices many have already suffered as a result of these service cuts.

Additionally, even people who are employed sometimes do not receive health coverage or cannot afford the premiums. Successful passage of this legislation would correct this problem. It would also require employers who do not provide health coverage to pay a fee to the state, which could be used towards the free-care pool. Companies already providing good insurance will not have to pay a fee; and low-wage, small businesses will receive extra deductions against their assessment.

In order to fund S738, NASW supports raising revenue by returning the state¡¦s dividend and interest tax back to previous levels combined with a cigarette tax increase.

I urge you to report this legislation favorably from the committee in a timely and expeditious manner. Thank you for your consideration.

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

An Act Indexing the Minimum Wage (HB 3782)

June 8, 2005
Rebekah Gewirtz

Testimony in support of House Bill 3782: Increasing and Indexing the Minimum Wage

To the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development,

On behalf of NASW - Massachusetts Chapter, an active membership organization of 8,400 Social Workers throughout the state, I would like to register strong support for House Bill 3782. Successful passage of this legislation would raise the minimum wage from its current rate of $6.75 per hour to $8.25 per hour and then index it to inflation.

H3782 is important to NASW ¡V Massachusetts Chapter because we believe that workers who perform very important functions in society should be paid a decent, living wage -- free from poverty. A raise of $8.25 per hour would mean a raise of more than $3000 per year for more than a quarter of a million low-wage workers like childcare providers, health care aides, janitors, and security guards. In a recent report published by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, researchers note that, "a number of economic studies have found that increases in the minimum wage can help to reduce poverty rates1" (and that indexing the minimum wage to inflation will help workers stay out of poverty over the long run since inflation will not eat away at their earnings).

Social Workers have long been on the forefront of efforts to reduce poverty and promote fair and equitable workplace practices. We recognize that mental health and substance abuse problems are often the result of poverty and hopelessness and as a result, we strongly believe in preventative programs that help people get ahead in society. Raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is one way for the state to help people meet their basic needs and have the opportunity to more adequately provide for their families.

We can do better in Massachusetts and raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation is one simple and predictable way to improve the quality of life for all of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

I strongly urge you to report this legislation favorably from the committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

Rebekah Gewirtz
Director of Government Relations and Political Action, MA Chapter, National Association of Social Workers

1 Keeping it Real: The Effects of Increasing and Indexing the Massachusetts Minimum Wage. November 26, 2004

An Act to Amend the Commonwealth's Drug Treatment Program to Allow for the Diversion of Low-Level Offenders Under Court Supervision (HB 3556)

June 6, 2005
Dorothy Weitzman

Testimony in support of House Bill 3556: An Act to Amend the Commonwealth's Drug Treatment Program to Allow for the Diversion of Low-Level Offenders Under Court Supervision

My name is Dorothy Weitzman and I am testifying on behalf of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and its 8,400 members. NASW strongly supports House 3556, an Act to Amend the Commonwealth'ss Drug Treatment Program to Allow for the Diversion of Low-Level Offenders Under Court Supervision because:

  • Research has shown that drug users are less likely to re-offend when they are provided with treatment and concrete services rather than incarceration.
  • Provision of treatment and concrete services is less expensive than imprisonment. As the Governor's Commission on Correctional Reform found, treatment services are not available in adequate supply in Department of Correction (DOC) facilities.
  • Providing treatment rather than incarceration under this provision avoids CORI records, which can impede an individual's ability to get a job.

This bill amends the current diversion to treatment statute - Chapter 111E of the Massachusetts General Laws - so that a defined population of low-level, non-violent drug offenders can receive treatment instead of incarceration. More specifically, the legislation:

  • Expands the type of provider that can be used by the court to determine drug dependant status and advise on appropriate addiction services, such as nurses, licensed clinical social workers, or other persons certified by the state. This will enable the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Public Health (DPH) to oversee the program. Treatment is redefined to encompass the entire range of services available in Massachusetts.

  • Directs the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services within DPH to inform District Attorneys, Defense Attorneys, Probation Officers and Judges about the treatment services available in their community, all members of the court can become comfortable with local treatment options.

  • Gives defendants, who are deemed drug dependant persons under this bill, the option to be placed on court supervision and enrolled in treatment services, if services are available in the community. Certain exceptions will apply.

  • Requires that defendants be monitored by the court through the probation system, through analysis of their progress in treatment, criminal recidivism, and compliance with all terms of probation. Defendants who successfully complete treatment will not have a conviction on their record.

Please give House 3556 a favorable report.
Thank you for your consideration.

Dorothy Weitzman
Chair, NASW-MA Criminal Justice SIG

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National Association of Social Workers - Massachusetts Chapter
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