The District of Columbia has been lax in enforcing eligibility requirements for its General Public Assistance program to aid temporarily disabled workers, and as a result has wrongly paid out thousands of dollars, according to a new report by the General Accounting Office.
During last April, for example, more than half of the 4,300 GPA recipients were still receiving benefits one or two years after their eligibility should have ended, according to the federal report.
The report also showed that although the program was designed to aid workers temporarily unemployed because of physical injury or mental problems, many recipients have received the standard $189.50 monthly payment while working or receiving unemployment compensation.
In addition, the city failed during a recent seven-month period to collect $156,000 in reimbursements from GPA recipients who had been qualified to receive federal Supplemental Security Income payments for the same period.
City officials, aware since last spring that the report was in the works, have already acknowledged many problems with the $14.4 million program. Last year some changes were instituted, but the report states that "more needs to be done."
In January, Mayor Marion Barry proposed in his 1984 budget that the program be abolished. Barry said at the time that the program was no longer serving its original purpose, but did not refer to the continuing audit.
The City Council, which voted on Barry's budget two weeks ago, restored half of the $8 million Barry had cut from the program.
Council Chairman David A. Clarke said yesterday the council had been aware of the report and believed costs could be saved "though better policing of the program" by the city rather than abolishing it outright.
The report said there are no formal regulations for workers to follow in qualifying applicants and that little effort is made to review existing cases to determine whether recipients remain eligible.
Despite "positive steps to improve," the report said, "inadequate procedures and methods continue to hamper the city's efforts to see that appropriate and timely eligiblity reviews are made and that only eligible recipients receive financial benefits."