Patrick Orders Inquiry Into Bombing Suspect’s Welfare Benefits
BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts welfare agency said Thursday it made a mistake when it disclosed information about past benefits that had been received by Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and other family members.
Gov. Deval Patrick, meanwhile, told reporters that he presumed that the benefits the family received were consistent with state eligibility requirements, but he had asked officials in the Department of Transitional Assistance to review the case and report any findings to him.
On Wednesday, the state revealed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his wife and their young daughter had received welfare benefits from the state until last year, when the family became ineligible based on family income.
A spokesman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services also said both Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his younger brother and the other bombing suspect, received benefits as children during limited portions of the time their parents lived in Massachusetts.
On Thursday, the department issued a statement explaining that state and federal privacy laws prohibited disclosure of personal information about individuals who receive various public benefits. The statement said the information released the previous day had been “inappropriately confirmed” by the agency in its effort to respond to media inquiries.
“Disclosing such information is not allowed by law. Regardless of the circumstances, we are obligated to follow state and federal law,” the agency said.
The department gave no indication that anything previously released was incorrect.
The Boston Herald first reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a fierce gunfight with police last week, had at one time received state welfare benefits.
While also acknowledging on Thursday that the information should not have been made public, Patrick told reporters he believed that welfare agency officials could brief him privately after reviewing the case. He said the state would release only what the law allowed.
Patrick said he also was curious about what benefits the suspects may have received.
“I mean, there are good and bad people on and off public assistance, but it’s obviously concerning that people who have done this kind of damage to us all would have been on the public dole for some period of time,” the governor said.
Republican lawmakers at the Statehouse also have asked the administration to review what type of benefits were received by the Tsarnaev family.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.