HARTFORD, Connecticut (WFSB) — House Democratic leaders are introducing a bill to eliminate what they call a “poverty tax.”
Connecticut is one of several states that can stake a claim against former welfare recipients as a way to recover the money provided to them.
House Speaker Matt Ritter says the welfare lien system keeps people in poverty.
A local woman says it’s a vicious cycle and she lost her house because of it.
Isee Greenwood had found her dream house. The New Haven mom says she first applied for public assistance in her early 20s and years later was able to become a homeowner.
When her parents died and her mortgage payments went up, she ran into some hardships.
“My bank was willing to let me refinance my mortgage, but the state said I owe them over 100,000 dollars in welfare lien,” Greenwood said.
A debt dating back to when she was receiving public assistance. Greenwood says she lost her house and was homeless shortly after.
“Anything you can in life, they’re taking it back. It’s like a temporary loan,” Greenwood said.
The state can recover money from certain welfare assistance programs through liens. The Dept. of Social Services can claim people’s homes, inheritance, or even settlements. It can go back for decades.
“I never knew almost forty years later, I’m trying to take care of my home, I want to retire, and I get a letter there’s a lien on my home,” said Renee Blake.
Renee Blake says she’s looking to sell her home soon, but she can’t because of $37,000 lien dating back to the 80s.
“I got my feet spending the years working and helping the state as a foster parent and now the state is going to knock me back,” Blake said.
Legislators say more than $18 million was collected from the lien system over a 5-year period.
The proposed bill would make welfare liens null and void moving forward.
“We’re talking about trying to give people lives an opportunity to succeed to be part of our community. It’s something we must, and without any thought, change,” said Rep. Toni Walker.
Rep. Toni Walker says during the 5-year period, the average claim amount was $14,000.
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