Group behind welfare study no liberal lot

We've all heard it before. Maine's welfare benefits are so over-the-top generous that the needy are coming here from around the country to take advantage of our largess.

More information:

Except, apparently, they aren't that high.

In fact, according a story that appeared on the front page of Sunday's Sun Journal, in a recent study comparing the total aid package from seven welfare programs offered in all 50 states, Maine's benefit package was among the least generous in the country: 41st out of 51 (including the District of Columbia).

And the state's modest benefits package pleased the author of the study, Michael D. Tannen, spokesman for the study's sponsor, the Libertarian Cato Institute, who congratulated Maine on its leaner-than-average package of welfare benefits.

"Maine has done a much better job than other New England states in terms of restraining the growth of welfare," Tanner told Sun Journal reporter Lindsay Tice. "One of our concerns is that the value of welfare benefits has exceeded the value of a low-wage job, which means that in many states, it's a disincentive to work. We think Maine has actually done a pretty good job of avoiding that." 

That kind of praise is probably what you'd expect from a man who represents an organization which listed among its goals for 2012: 

* "Restore financial discipline"

* "Stop Obamacare"

* "Repeal Dodd-Frank"

* "Defend your Second Amendment right to bear arms"

* "Develop a rational strategy for immigration reform"

* "Restore the concept of sound money"

* "Reduce military expenditures to a goal-oriented,  reasonable level — with the objective of defending the United States, not righting all of the planet's perceived wrongs."

Sound like any other party you know? 

That's some serious conservative cred right there. 

In this day and age of "your facts and my facts" and damning the source, it should not be lost on readers that neither the author nor the sponsor of this study is devoted to liberal causes. 

The Cato Institute operates around the Libertarian principles of preserving individual freedom and limiting government. So it's easy to see why welfare, the poster-child for government involvement in citizens' lives, would be a favorite target. They would prefer to turn over the problems addressed by the government's welfare programs to "an invigorated program of private charity and economic opportunity." The quote comes from an teaser to Tanner's book, "The Poverty of Welfare: Helping Others in a Civil Society."  

Maine's welfare benefits are a hot topic, from private dinner table "discussions" to public political debates. Misinformation spreads like a virus.

But in this study, there is a fact that is hard to debate: If you are a single mother of two, there are 40 states that offer better benefits than the state of Maine offers.

Now, what about housing? And that's a valid question. When you look at the study results, housing benefits are not included in the Maine total. That's because in Maine, a single mother of two who qualifies for Temporary Aid for Needy Families can't get housing assistance as well. It's one or the other — not both. 

We don't know — yet — how Maine's housing assistance programs stack up against other states in the nation. That's a topic for a future story.

But whatever the results of future studies and reports, we can say, on this day, if you're a single mother of two shopping for a state with great welfare benefits, you will find a better deal almost anywhere else.

What do you think of this story?

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Claire Dupuis's picture

Welfare benefits in Maine

This article certainly debunks our governor's often voiced statement that Maine is almost tops in welfare benefits. Too bad that many more people will read the governor's speaking points on welfare than will read this article.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Group behind welfare study no liberal lot

Mainers , Tuesday 16:32 HST ?
One of the better discussions we've had in here , ed . †yvm for the data and continuing objective outlook
Cato's stuck somewhere between and and always has been . i think they all allow women in , unlike in DC , which doesn't
You'd have much less fun trying to categorize ( my alma mater ) , , , , and . DC sports it's own college , too
^^ These are - all - very liberal arts institutions and - all - located within the very confined boundaries of the District ^^ It's safe to say they know something - a lot - we don't . George Mason is the only other conservative place in the vicinity , in NOVA ( Northern Virginia )
There aren't any others
Thank goodness
hth , Steve :D , former Brookings Institute , Mass Ave. employee , and ƒlaming liberal . ..


Well, you really have done it

Well, you really have done it all haven't you, Steve.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

Not So Fast - There's More to the Story.

This study does not give the whole picture. Please review the following, from David Sorenson, Maine House Republicans.


The rankings should be seen as relative to GDP and cost of living.

· States that were “generous” included rich states with high costs of living, such as Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Connecticut.

· States that ranked low, like Maine, included poorer states like Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Idaho.

· Maine may have ranked 41st for welfare “generosity,” but we also only have the 42nd-highest GDP. A welfare recipient in Maine doesn’t need as much in benefits to get by as a recipient in Boston or the tri-state area.

The ranking has serious gaps in methodology.

· Housing assistance in Maine is not included. When included, our rank jumps from 41 to 25.

· General Assistance is not included. GA ballooned in cost 169 percent from 2003 to 2012.

Looking at benefits per recipient gives only one, very narrow view of welfare dependence. Enrollment levels, eligibility standards, and fraud/abuse are hugely important.

· Maine ranks 3rd for TANF cash welfare enrollment

· Maine ranks 6th for food stamp enrollment

· Maine ranks 3rd for Medical welfare enrollment

· Maine’s food stamp error rate is 2nd

· Before Republican reforms, we were one of only seven states to allow lifetime, unlimited TANF cash benefits

· Maine is one of only nine states to provide food stamps and TANF to those convicted of drug-related felonies

· In 2007-2008, Maine ranked 5th for the percent of its TANF recipients not in the labor force

· Maine ranks 2nd for welfare spending as a percent of overall state spending

· Meanwhile, Maine’s poverty rate is actually well below the national average, at 15th lowest (12.9% compared to an average of 14.7%)

· Maine’s inflation-adjusted state welfare spending over the past two decades has nearly doubled while the poverty rate has remained constant.

David E. Sorensen
Communications Director
Maine House Republicans

Cell: 207.205.7793

RONALD RIML's picture

Sorensen (and Naran) should read Forbes Magazine

and MoneyRates.Com. Though we may have a low GDP - we do have a high cost of living.

So really where is Maine relatively in the list of The Best And Worst States To Make A Living In?

", a source of information on bank rates, personal finance, savings accounts and investing, just released its third annual ranking of the best and worst places to make a living.

It ranks all 50 states based on income, taxes, cost of living, unemployment, and workplace environment data. The information is gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, C2ER,, and Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index."

Maine ranked 40, based upon:

Average wage and unemployment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cost of living data from C2ER (formerly ACCRA)

State tax rate information from

The Workplace Environment rankings from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index poll

Steve  Dosh's picture

Naran Row-Spaulding & David

Naran Row-Spaulding & David E. Sorensen ,
Q : What are you going to do about it ?
A : ____________________________ ?
/s Dr. Dosh , Hawai'i • ;)
" Don't just do something . Sit there . "

RONALD RIML's picture

Steve - Naran will simply come in

...and comment without discussion. Unless she can control the conversation - she has no interest in 'Give and Take' - None whatsoever.....

 's picture


Just goes to show the truth has a liberal bias.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Mark , 16:45 hst

Mark , 16:45 hst Tuesday
†ruth says no thing about good or bad
e.g., the fundamental fact of our nuclear age is that if you put 24 lbs of enriched plutonium together anywhere in the known universe it will explode
This is critical mass , by definition
Is this good , bad , liberal or conservative ?
You tell us now
It's true , though . :D /s Steve
" Never let the truth be the enemy of the good . "

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

"Never let the truth be the

"Never let the truth be the enemy of the good."
Only to a liberal. The truth may often be ugly, but it's a lot better than baldfaced being lied to. "If you like your present plan, you get to keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you get to keep your doctor." Sound familiar, Steve? Premier oBAMa, as a liar, is in the same league with Richard Nixon and Judas Iscariot.

Stacey Hall's picture

Would the libertarians bring us back to grandmas day?

The self centered behavior of today is why the libertarian movement will never work. The people begging for a return to my great grandmothers day assume that their neighbor would care if they broke their back falling down the neighbors stairs that were in disrepair - the subject of this article proves they would not (we live libertarian style now buddy, lay off to the side and die, you can't sue me anymore!). Few donations to charity pools would happen. God, these people begrudge the measly $36.82 a YEAR that someone making $50,000 pays in taxes to help fund the food stamp program (and you know that's not what most of you make, so you don't even pay that much in taxes to fund feeding a little kid for the year). Do you want to defund something? How about looking at how much that same taxpayer pays for national defense a year? That would be $247.75. Did you freak out over the missing billions during the Iraq war? No? How about the gluttony of Haliburton during that time? No? It sure does suck that we pay under $40 a year to feed people though, right?

Libertarian dystopia

That, Stacey, is why I have observed that Libertarians (and their cousins the Ayn Rand groupie Objectivists) to be naive utopianists. While the idea of Libertarianism does sound wonderful, it does not take human nature into account. The only was true, pure libertaianism would work is is ALL PEOPLE followed it. But, and this is the paradox of the Libertarian utopia, you can't FORCE everyone to follow that path (because that would be restricting their liberty), and the system will collapse under the weight of the greedy taking advantage of the gullible.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Stacey , You are correct ?

Stacey , You are correct ? It's all about as funny as ' Dead - Eye ' Dick Cheney after consuming a Big Mac ® meal
Rural nostalgics want to go back to a time that never was
" The 1918 flu pandemic (January 1918 – December 1920)[1] was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, the first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus (the second being the 2009 flu pandemic). It infected 500 million[2] people across the world, including remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, and killed 50 to 100 million of them—3 to 5 percent of the world's population[3] at the time—making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.[2][4][5][6] "
Get your shots , everyone . It's ƒree under Obamacare ® at your local drug store and avian , equine , pig and Hong Kong flus are real . Inoculate your home and charter schooled children , too ( diphtheria , tetanus , measles, mumps , rubella , whooping cough and all the rest .They'll infect those who aren't inoculated . Ain't fun for either party . Just a suggestion . Happy Halloween ! /s Dr. Dosh

FRANK EARLEY's picture

What a total waste of time..................

We hear these arguments every day, in one form or another, and quite frankly There are some incredibly stupid things being said, and I'm assuming, believed.
Lets get off this target of making this imaginary mother of two happy. There are a lot of people out there, who for whatever reason, need help. There are single moms, single dads, single men and single women, children living with relatives who can't feed themselves. The array of reasons for their needs is astronomical. It's so easy for all these healthy "men" mostly, to sit around and decide whats best for the needy, it's usually based on what best for them. Of course when it comes to the party of the "Good ol Boy's", it's guns first, cut the money to the needy second. All you hear from the right, is take away their benefits, and they will be "forced to work". It's a very simple premiss, coming from a very simple minds.
The one thing most of these, so called experts on what needs to be done with those damn poor people. Are people who haven't ever missed a meal in their life, never once had the guy from CMP come to the door and explain why he's shutting off your power. These guys are all experts on something they have no clue about.
Very rarely does anyone speak to those who actually live this lifestyle. I mean in committee meetings, on boards, there needs to be people with first hand knowledge of whats going on. Not just what can be done with the least amount of discomfort to the rest of us.
I say, do this whole article over again, use people with first hand experiences. People who know what it takes to get through a day with nothing. Find out who is really getting what, It may surprise a few out there.
All you ever hear is how easy it is to game the system, how easy it is to collect benefits and live high off the hog.
Well I would bet if this article was written by the very people being scrutinized in the story, it would have a totally different slant to it, one that would hint toward the truth..............

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Truth - all transfer programs

Truth - all transfer programs need to means test beneficiaries, starting with SSDI and SS.

 's picture

"All you hear from the right,

"All you hear from the right, is take away their benefits, and they will be "forced to work". It's a very simple premiss, coming from a very simple minds." I am further right than most people and I say a lot more than this. Many able people are collecting some kind of benefits when they could be working. I don't say this as an echo to what the pundits cry every day. My information comes from running a small business. It is not uncommon for someone to ask to work off the books so he can keep collecting his food stamps or unemployment. Others want to stay on Mainecare. Every time a prospective employee asks me this I tell him if he wants to work for me it is going to be on the books. Every time that person has turned down the job so he can keep colecting his free government money. Every time.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Two things...............

One, if the system was modified to allow people to gradually work toward independence, which I thought they did try at some point. Maybe that would allow more people to gradually work themselves off assistance. With the ACA in place, it will allow more people to afford health care and still work legally. So instead of asking for under the table work, they could work worry free .
The second thing bothering me, where does anyone get the idea that welfare assistance is something to live free and clear on. I'm totally disabled, I have for years lived off my Long Term Disability insurance, I recently switched to SSDI. Now given that you can get some idea of what my general income level is. A couple of years ago, just for the fun of it, because I knew what the outcome would be, I applied for SNAP. housing assistance, heating assistance, help with my electric bill, MaineCare, you name it. Every type of assistance we could think of. Guess what? I got turned down for every single program. I was afraid to ask the time of day, for fear they'd charge me for it.
Now a lot of people knows pretty much what Social Security pays, my private disability paid me about one fifth of my normal salary. Given that scenario, a totally disabled person receiving SS is to rich to receive assistance from the State. I can only imagine what a person who does qualify must be going through. I personally wouldn't want to be in that situation voluntarily.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

David, Glad to see that you


Glad to see that you are making the right choices for you have far more to lose by helping people cheat the system than they have to lose by cheating the system.

Gerry Thompson's picture


are on a death spiral as a State.How many are receiving $19,000 a year in benefits? That is more than a lot of people make and more than what I have left after taxes etc. for a 40 hour week. Yes we have needy people but show me the incentive to work with benefits like that available

 's picture

That study by the Cato

That study by the Cato Institute focused on only one part of welfare spending, the amount of benefits that someone gets. There is another part of welfare that wasn't discussed, who and how many people qualify for those benefits. Even though the benefit amoumts in Maine are less than the national average are there people who would get benefits here but would be turned down in other states? Something like that could draw people who want a free ride into a state.

Jeff Wilkins's picture

Great points

Great points, David. It was also unclear how long those benefits run for and how they compared to the local cost of living. Maine has a very low cost of living compared to other states. Also, Maine is very generous with giving benefits to out-of-state'rs.

 's picture

Got anything to document that, because its not true

nor is it true that eligibility draws people to Maine. These are preconceptions based on how some people think not what real people do. Never has been any evidence that people from out of state move to Maine for welfare benefits. Nada, nothing. This is envy-itis. If the government sends me a check; its good. If it sends my neighbor a check its bad.

Roger Moulton's picture

Somalians in Lewiston

Are a perfect example. It is a well known fact that they came here after Georgia was no longer providing them with benefits that they would be eligible for here. Do you really need documentation idiot?

 's picture

I love well known facts (another name for commonsense)

that aren't true and make no sense. The Somalians moved from Atlanta to maine with the help of Catholic Charities because they did not adjust well to urban life in a major US city being rural people. Had nothing to do with eligibility for welfare. Thought this wornout argument had been discarded a decade ago when the racist anti-somalian protests ended.

 's picture

low cost housing

If my memory is accurate part of what drew Somalians to Lewiston was an abundance of low priced housing. When they arrived so many asked for welfare that the mayor of Lewiston asked them to slow down their migration because they were overwhelming the city's resources. I don't recall any mention of Atlanta being too urban.

 's picture

your memory is pretty good, mine isn't so I have to

resort to sources. I reviewed the news accounts around their move. Housing costs were one issue. Catholic Charities which helped them move to Maine also was dealing with their adapting to Atlanta's urban environment. I think they have done very well adapting to Lewiston.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Does anyone in the system

Does anyone in the system collect enough data to examine that claim? Nada....

Jeff Wilkins's picture

Sure do...

Actually, I do. (Section FS-111-3)

Any US citizen (or non-citizen in some cases) can move to Maine and immediately take benefits. There's not waiting period, no requirement to live in the state for a certain amount of time, nothing. Just move here and collect benefits. You don't even need an ID or place of residence (homeless). Full documentation is here: (

It's well documented and discussed the welfare issues we have in Maine. Let's try to keep this conversation civil and leave the attitude out of it, please. It's not helpful. Don't be like the majority of drones on here, let's think for ourselves and keep it civil.

If you disagree, or have some other documentation that says otherwise, please reply and let me know. Honestly, the website isn't very clear (for example, it never says how long you can receive benefits for, perhaps they never expire).

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

The benefits you mention are

The benefits you mention are in addition to General Assistance, which is given out on the municipal level. So, the range of benefits available to anyone moving to Maine, from day one, is substantial.

There's a reason people move to Maine, as opposed to New Hampshire or Massachusetts, which have less generous benefits, and a higher standard for eligibility.

 's picture

DHHS studied the background of people applying for benefits

The majority of those new applications where the person had recently moved to Maine (live in Maine for less than 6 months) were people with social security accounts issued to Maine residents.
In short most out-of-staters move to Maine to come home; not for so-called "generous" welfare benefits. Those benefits are never substantial. They are at best minimal and often not even that.

Jeff Wilkins's picture


Do you have a link to the report or study that has that data?

 's picture

It was an article on the DHHS web site

and I got a printed summary from my representative some years back.

Jeff Wilkins's picture


A lot of people would love to see that, if you can find the link. I've not seen it myself and I've looked.

RONALD RIML's picture

Yet how many people move to Maine to 'Claim' these benefits,

Naran?? That is one of the primary questions being asked.


Agreed and thanks for taking

Agreed and thanks for taking this on SJ. Needed to be said but few will listen.


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