Welfare system abuse

This is in response to the Joel Packer guest column about Maine's welfare system (Nov. 7).

Packer states that Maine's documented rate of welfare fraud is two-tenths of 1 percent (the national rate is 4 percent). That is hardly an abundance of fraud. Now, if only we could add the undocumented fraud, I think people would be appalled.

Another paragraph states that most people do not understand what welfare is. They lump many programs under that category. Webster's dictionary defines welfare as the organized efforts of government agencies that grant aid to the poor, the unemployed, etc. It is apparent that people do understand that welfare comes in many forms.

Packer says the millions and millions of federal and state dollars go into the state's economic system to pay expenses that help the Maine economy prosper. I did not know the state's economy was prospering, especially from welfare. Welfare does not generate federal or state income taxes that pay for itself.

Yes, the Maine welfare system is too generous and the laws are too lenient. I worked for the state, auditing General Assistance, and I have seen the system abused on a daily basis.

Richard Smith, Lewiston

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 's picture

reporting abuse

Reporting abuse is not a easy as one would expect. Having worked in healthcare for some time now, I have had the opportunity to attempt to report abuse. However, there is no easy way to do this, nor is there follow up on the other end. However, the state is finally starting to move towards holding people responsible for their decisions. Narcotics are finally being monitored and abusers are finally being shut off. That means if they are trying to get too many then they are shut off. This is a much larger problem than people suspect and it is a thriving cash business. Ask any police officer what the street value of narcotics is. Glad to see DHHS finally starting to pay attention.

Linda Sherwood's picture

reporting the deadbeats, too

I agree with mrnpchick that reporting abuse is not as simple as one would think. That said, it is not only the narcotics abuse that you mention, but how about the deadbeat parents who are out there, avoiding the state's child support enforcement officers as they hide money with self-employment and other loopholes so they do not pay the custodial parent to provide for their children? If there was as much anger toward the deadbeats as there seems to be against recipients of welfare, then perhaps we could move forward in these discussions, turn the frustration toward those who avoid parental responsibilities, and do more about reporting those folks. If the deadbeats were caught and made to support the children they've created, then we would see a decrease in the need for state supported services...I say decrease as we will always have the disabled and elderly among us who definitely need help from a caring community.

Linda Sherwood's picture

system still needs reform..

I agree with you cranky yankee, that those who are working for the state, seeing the abuse and not reporting it are just as guilty, but this is an assumption that Richard did not report what he observed. From what I've seen as a recipient (for which I am extremely grateful and give back community service at every opportunity), there is reform needed from within and with those who do abuse it as recipients. Some of the waste I see in the system itself includes, numerous mailings and postage, often duplicate mailings and several per week, paid for by tax dollars. Reform is needed also in the way in which the people are treated. Anyone who has ever had to endure the shame of admitting they need help and going to the DHHS office would probably agree that there is little incentive to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps when the atmosphere is so extremely depressing. The only reason I have been able to do so is because of my incredibly positive support system and my own innate optimism. Unfortunately, not everybody has that. There are programs in place to help us get ahead, but there is little encouragement offered. I'm talking about creating a motivational approach to helping recipients. The workers (who are overworked, understaffed, and underpaid) seem like they are all dragging and really do not want to be there. IF mandatory workshops were offered that provided optimistic motivational seminars from anything to childcare lessons for young mothers, to speakers who have gone through the system and earned a college degree or got a secure job to provide for themselves. Before anyone criticizes, yes, once I am finished my degree (almost done), I plan to offer my time to speak to such classes.

Linda Sherwood's picture

generalizing or personal knowledge?

Ben, is it personal knowledge you have of so many people who are abusing the system, or is this a generalization you are making from the grapevine? I'm not being sarcastic at all, just wondering where the criticizers of assistance recipients are getting all this information.

Linda Sherwood's picture

ASPIRE Inspires

As one who has benefited from the assistance programs offered through DHHS, I am deeply sensitive to the accusations of abuse of the system. From statistical data, it appears that the majority of recipients are either women with children, elderly, or disabled persons. Sure, there is some abuse that occurs, as there is within the political system, educational system, healthcare system and anywhere there are large numbers of human beings involved. However, what I think would help us move forward is looking at the successful stories of those who have been able to achieve independence and college degrees because of the hand up we have been so blessed to receive. Many people who complain about welfare recipients would not blink an eye to sending money to causes that help others in other countries or devastated areas due to natural catastrophes. How about considering the devastation that happens to families with children right here in our own backyards due to the high divorce rate and absentee parents who owe thousands of dollars to the state budget as back pay to cover child support arrears? I don't hear much complaining about those deadbeat parents who actually cause much of the need for the custodial parents to require state assistance to raise the children. Complaining about such issues will not help us move forward as a society. It is by encouraging recipients enrolled in the programs that work that we will foster independence, self-sufficiency, and desire to give back once off the program.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Are you sure about that, Ben?

Are you sure about that, Ben? BTW---where is ol' Tron?

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Very impressive. If accurate,

Very impressive. If accurate, which I do not doubt, it certainly clarifies a couple of things for me.

 's picture

Unfortunately, as long as

Unfortunately, as long as social service programs exist there ill always be fraud to some degree.

 's picture

Part of the problem

Sounds like you're part of the problem sir. You say you worked for the state, auditing GA, did you report the fraud that you saw? Did you try to do something about it and document it? Or were you just willing to go along and collect your paycheck?
Or perhaps you are much like many of the politicians were during the recent campaign, using hearsay, gossip and local myth to perpetuate the needless fears of Mainers that the evil hoards are bursting through our borders to take something away from us.
Yes there is welfare fraud, but I suspect it's more native white mainers using their benefits to keep the homefront full of cigarettes and Allens Coffee Brandy while earning cash digging worms, collecting bottles and cashing in the junk metal pile in the back of their neighbors house. How's that for undocumented fraud?


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