DSS Measure To Deny Heating Aid Called 'Cruel;' Panels Taking More Time
By ANN MARIE SOMMA, Courant Staff Writer
September 27, 2007
State lawmakers on Wednesday delayed voting on a controversial plan to keep illegal immigrants from receiving federally funded heating assistance by requiring all applicants to produce a Social Security number.
The legislature's human services, appropriations, and energy technology committees postponed voting on the plan Michael Starkowski, the state Department of Social Services commissioner, devised in response to a whistle-blower's complaint that a New Haven nonprofit group was providing federally funded heating assistance to illegal immigrants.
The committees have until Oct. 19 to vote.
Starkowski told the committee he devised the plan based on the legal opinion Attorney General Richard Blumenthal issued Tuesday that federal law bars illegal immigrants from receiving any federally funded benefits. Starkowski added his plan as an amendment to his agency's strategy for allocating $40.9 million in federal heating assistance for low-income residents.
A DSS audit into the whistle-blower's complaint revealed that the Community Action Agency in New Haven has provided heating assistance to illegal immigrants in New Haven by either creating Social Security numbers or bypassing a computer field that requires a Social Security number.
Some committee members said they needed more time to digest the plan and to meet with Blumenthal to ask him questions. Others called for an immediate vote, fearful that the state could lose federal heating assistance dollars if it found the state out of compliance with federal law.
There were legislators who simply opposed the idea.
"This is a cruel amendment," said Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia. "What are we going to do with these people? Let them freeze? If they need energy assistance to be warm we won't give it to them because they are undocumented."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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