LePage proposes welfare reform bills

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage announced plans Tuesday to introduce three welfare reform bills for the next legislative session, which begins in January.

Among the proposed legislation will be two welfare reform bills sponsored by House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. Those bills were rejected by the Democrat-controlled Legislative Council, but will move toward consideration during the next legislative session after LePage announced Tuesday that he would submit them.

The governor also announced that he will introduce a third bill of his own design, which would put limits on where welfare recipients could spend cash benefits via electronic bank transfer, or EBT, cards. The aim of the governor’s bill is to limit purchases of items such as alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets.

EBT cards also have turned up in some in-state drug busts, leading LePage and others to believe the cards — which can contain dollars that can be spent as cash on any goods sold by retailers participating in the program — are being traded for drugs.

“The reforms in these bills won’t harm those who are truly needy or who need a hand up during tough times,” LePage said in his weekly radio address, where he announced his plan to sponsor the bills. “If they really need assistance and agree to play by the rules, Mainers are more than happy to provide them with benefits. But we can no longer tolerate an unchecked welfare system that has no accountability. Mainers demand accountability from their government, and that should apply to our welfare system too.”

LePage’s EBT bill also would limit the use of the cards to “certain geographic areas,” he said. That provision is a response to data that showed Maine EBT cards being used as far away as Florida or Nevada.

A spokeswoman for the governor said the exact terms are still being worked out, but that acceptable locations for EBT use would likely include not only Maine, but other states in the region.

One of Fredette’s bills would require job-ready Mainers seeking cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program to submit documentation proving they had already applied for at least three jobs before seeking cash assistance through the program.

This so-called “up-front” requirement is in place in 19 other states, ranging from conservative Georgia to liberal Vermont.

The second would eliminate discretion by DHHS caseworkers in deciding whether to penalize beneficiaries for failing to participate in an education, training and work program required for TANF recipients. That program is called ASPIRE, which stands for Additional Support for People in Retraining and Employment.

When Fredette i ntroduced the bills in early October, Democrats in the Legislature decried them as politically motivated attempts to vilify poor Maine families. The Legislative Council, made up of six Democratic legislative leaders and four Republican legislative leaders, twice rejected the bills for consideration during the second legislative session, voting along party lines.

The Legislative Council votes to determine which legislation submitted by lawmakers will be considered during the shorter second legislative session, when only proposals deemed to be of an emergency nature or carried over from the first session can be considered. However, a governor can submit proposed legislation at any time without required authorization from the Legislative Council. That is what’s happening with Fredette’s bills.

“I would like to thank Gov. LePage for ensuring that these welfare reforms will have a chance to receive public hearings and floor votes,” Fredette said in a Tuesday afternoon release. “These are common sense reforms of the kind that Maine people are crying out for.”

LePage also made a thinly veiled reference to Democrats on the Legislative Council and others who opposed Fredette’s welfare reform bills when they were first proposed.

“Progressives and liberals think the status quo in our welfare system is just fine. They refuse to support any reforms, but Mainers know they’re out of touch,” he said. “Mainers know the system is broken.”

Welfare reform has been an issue of emphasis for Republicans heading into the 2014 gubernatorial and legislative elections. The second session of the Democrat-controlled 126th Legislature begins Jan. 8.

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AL PELLETIER's picture

Smoke screen!

He'll do just about anything to distract voters from his dismal performance, his outrageous behavior and his misappropriation of taxpayer dollars.
He has already spent more money on welfare fraud then welfare fraud has cost us. As I said---SMOKE SCREEN!
As a foot note: With heating oil up .02 a gallon Lepage should have used our $995,200.00 to help heat about 5,000 needy Maine households instead of giving it to a flat lander, Gary Alexander, for a totally useless report. Oh well, now we know what his priorities are.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

This irony should concern everyone......

Nowhere in this article is there any mention of how much these new bills aim to save the State. I mean after all, we sure could use say, nine hundred thousand dollars. How could we possibly come up with almost a million dollars to help the needy? Has the Governor considered how far that much money would go to help feed the less fortunate, help the homeless in this brutal cold weather we've been experiencing. How about heating oil for the working poor trying to keep their pipes from freezing. I could think of hundreds of uses for that kind of money.
Welfare reforms have been an issue of emphasis to the Republican Party, funny how they only become emphasis in an election year. Why wouldn't Medicaid Expansion be an emphasis to them now? Isn't medical insurance for everyone a form of welfare reform? wouldn't it help thousands of families? Of course it would.
Unfortunately for the citizens this may help, Republicans like to talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk, well they'd just assume take a ride. They like to talk big plans, as long as these plans don't inconvenience them in any way. So pushing two bills already defeated in the Congress is just their speed, yup, groundbreaking...............


The Grinch

When you have nothing else going for you the first rule of conservative politics is to create a wedge. Find something or someone that is easily turned into a target and appeal to everybody's lower instincts. Sort of like starting up an IRS investigation in the month of April. Since the poor are his favorite straw man he is there again. For every abuser buying lottery tickets with his EBT card I can show you 10 kids going without food, medical care, clothing, an education and a warm dry home thanks to his policies. I have never heard so much begging from charities as I have in the last 3 months. I'm assuming that for the rich this is how they live with their greed. Well charities do not provide a child with an education that would allow him to better his lot and medicine for his ear infections so he can hear the teacher, and a warm dry bed so he can learn in school the next day, and glasses so he can see the board and a job with a living wage for mom and dad so he can feel secure. We can either be a failed society by creating hellholes of squalor and suffering as in Haiti or Somalia or rural Mississippi or Detroit or we can invest in the future by providing the means for upward mobility for everyone.


This coming from a man who

This coming from a man who has placed DHHS in noncompliance in regards to the treatment of Riverview patients. This coming from a man who by limiting the use of the EBT card could hurt the mom and pop stores. As far as Fredette's bills...requiring a person to look for work prior to receiving help is all well and good but he has not done his research (or maybe he has) DHHS has a rule that if a person refuses employment they are not eligible for assistance. So if a person is offered a job that is for lets say 10 hours per week and they turn it down because that would not even pay childcare expenses then the would be ineligible for assistance. Instead of just throwing more rules and requirements in an attempt to reform welfare, why don't they take the rules already in place and make sure they are enforced and are actually working? Why not talk with recipients and find out what the issues are? Why not talk with past recipients and find out what could have been done to fix the welfare issues? There are many ways to reform welfare without hurting those that need the assistance and there are many ways to do so without putting an even bigger stigma on our poor.

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Heir Hitler

LePage’s EBT bill also would limit the use of the cards to “certain geographic areas,

seems like Marshall law from Heir Lepage...better make sure they don't cross state lines also and get permission slips to leave the state and post a return date....


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