HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania House this week voted to advance Senate Bill 9, legislation that would require welfare applicants in Pennsylvania to provide proof that they legally reside within the United States in order to receive benefits. Senate Bill 9 would require welfare applicants to provide identification proving their legal residency or sign an affidavit affirming the legality of their presence in the United States.
Under the bill, the possession or use of an electronic benefits card – known in Pennsylvania as an ACCESS card – by anyone who is not lawfully present in the United State would be a third-degree felony. Agencies that administer public benefits would have to verify the eligibility of applicants through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlement (SAVE) program. The identification and affidavit requirements would not apply to applicants who are under 18 years of age, currently receiving Supplemental Security Income or Social Security disability income, or is enrolled in or entitled to benefits under the traditional Medicare program or Medicare Part B. The requirements also would be waived for victims of domestic violence who file a separate affidavit to that effect. The bill passed with a vote of 157-34. Senate Bill 9 now returns to the Senate for a concurrence vote.