Norway, Paris discuss cooperation on general assistance, workfare

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PARIS — Norway and Paris could cooperate in their General Assistance programs, giving the towns one common application process and bringing Norway’s workfare program to Paris.

Selectmen in both towns have yet to discuss the cooperative agreement, but Paris Town Manager Phil Tarr said the idea came from discussions between himself and Norway Town Manager David Holt.

According to Tarr, each town would maintain a separate General Assistance program, each with its own funding for respective residents.

Tarr said a current loophole allows people to claim addresses in both towns, allowing them to receive General Assistance from both Norway and Paris. In the plan under discussion, Paris would handle applicants from both towns, blocking attempts to double dip.

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The cooperation would also allow Paris to use a workfare program, which Norway has had for about 20 years, Holt said. Norway would manage the workfare program for both towns.

In Norway, anyone receiving General Assistance who is not caring for a minor child, not in school and is physically able to work must do town work for an equivalent of the minimum wage to earn General Assistance.

“As they become repeat clients, they can be required to do that work prior to receiving that assistance,” Holt said. Some work has been done at the transfer station and in maintaining public parks. Last summer, Holt said, workfare workers painted the Town Office.

“I’m very pleased with the work that they did,” Holt said.

There are problems, Holt said. Often there isn’t enough work to go around, and recipients willing to work don’t get an opportunity. The biggest challenge is finding enough supervisors for workfare workers.

Holt said that in the long run, he and Tarr may approach Community Concepts about expanding workfare to other towns that might be interested.

Tarr said that as the state looks to make cuts to human services, those cuts will affect towns, too. The state supplies 50 percent of towns’ General Assistance funding, Tarr said, and the cooperative plan could save money without cutting services.

According to Tarr, Norway has seen rapid growth in General Assistance costs, and Paris has seen an increase, as well. In a letter to the Board of Selectmen about his proposal, Tarr called it “a cost savings approach to a program that is growing and becoming increasingly expensive.”

Holt said the plan wouldn’t necessarily save money, but would be useful, nonetheless. “Phil and I think it would be a better service,” he said. He said he and Tarr have discussed areas in which the towns could cooperate on services in ways that would improve services for the towns.

The Paris Board of Selectmen is set to discuss the issue at a Feb. 13 meeting.

treaves@sunjournal.com

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