Patrick: Despite Advocates’ Warnings, New Welfare Rules ‘Flexible’

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is defending his decision to quietly sign a bill making changes to the state’s welfare system.

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute says the bill puts an unfair burden on some applicants for benefits. That’s because they would have to show they’re looking for work before they have the means – or the child care – to do so. But the governor says it’s a good bill.

“I’ve heard those advocates, my team has spent a lot of time with those advocates and it’s not unreasonable to ask that people try,” Patrick said Friday. “If there are reasons – and there are many, for many people, why they can’t get work – the…legislation…is flexible on that. But you’ve got to try, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

State legislators who passed the welfare bill say it will also tighten rules against welfare abuse.

Unlike with some other pieces of major legislation, Patrick signed the bill in private last week, and his office did not release a statement announcing the decision.

New England Public Radio’s Adam Frenier and Karen Brown contributed to this report.