Maine Governor Curbs Public Assistance To ‘Able-Bodied’ Recipients Unless They Work

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Paul LePage

Acting on the order of Republican Governor Paul LePage, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday the State would stop administering Federal food stamp benefits to capable residents who do not hold jobs, receive job training or do volunteer work.

In a statement, the Governor explained his rationale, saying people in need “deserve a hand up, but we should not be giving able-bodied individuals a handout… We must protect our limited resources for those who are truly in need and who are doing all they can to be self-sufficient.”

According to Portland NBC affiliate WCSH-TV, the new rule, set to take effect on Oct. 1, applies to adult food stamp recipients who do not claim any dependents. It will require them to work or volunteer for 20 hours per week in order to continue receiving food stamps, now formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Recipients can also meet the requirement by participating in the Maine Department of Labor’s Competitive Skills Scholarship Program, which trains residents in developing practical job skills.

The SNAP program is funded by the Federal government but is administered by the States. LePage’s plan would affect approximately 12,000 Maine residents.

More from the report:

In an interview with NEWS CENTER, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew emphasized that the change only affects SNAP recipients with are not disabled, not elderly and have no dependents. She says that means it will not affect single mothers, for example. DHHS says federal law already requires work for those recipients, but Mayhew says Maine has been operating under a federal waiver since 2009. The waiver expires at the end of September and Mayhew says the state will not renew it. She says the lower unemployment rate and improving economy should make it more feasible for those people to find jobs. But DHHS is also stressing that specific education or training programs can also qualify, as can approved community service work.

Democratic elected leaders in Maine reportedly aren’t happy about the end of no-work food stamps, criticizing LePage for playing politics and neglecting the plight of poor people in the State’s rural areas, where the logistics of getting and keeping part-time work aren’t feasible for people who lack funds.

In June, LePage made a similar move to curb wasteful applications of public assistance, announcing a plan to end State benefits for illegal immigrants who reside in Maine. “[I]llegal aliens who choose to live in Maine are not our most vulnerable citizens,” LePage explained in a radio address discussing the proposal.

Interesting nugget: LePage himself reportedly was homeless as a child.

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.