AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced today it will require that most able-bodied recipients work, provide volunteer services or be involved in a specialized work training program in order to receive Food Supplement benefits.

Recipients of Food Supplement, more commonly known as Food Stamps, who are between ages 18 and 49, who have no dependents living with them, who are not pregnant and who are not  disabled will have to meet the work participation requirement or the benefit will no longer be provided after three months.

“People who are in need deserve a hand up, but we should not be giving able-bodied individuals a handout,’’ said Maine Governor Paul R. LePage. “We must continue to do all that we can to eliminate generational poverty and get people back to work. We must protect our limited resources for those who are truly in need and who are doing all they can to be self-sufficient.”

Nearly 12,000 people in the Food Supplement program are considered ‘Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents’ by federal rules.  Approximately $15 million a year in Food Supplemental benefits are provided to this group.

In order to meet work requirements, those who fall into this category must work a minimum of 20 hours a week or volunteer for a community agency for a certain number of hours, depending upon the value of the current Food Supplement benefit received.  Participation in the Maine Department of Labor’s (DOL) Competitive Skills Scholarship Program, which helps individuals gain skills that will lead to higher paying jobs, also fulfills the work requirement.

Over the last six months, a partnership between the DHHS and the DOL has led to an intensified effort to help people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits on a pathway to employment.  Vocational assessments, connection to the Maine Career Centers and job banks and continued case management have led to a significant increase in the employment of TANF recipients. The partnership between the two agencies will assist Food Supplement recipients meet the work requirement by providing job search training and support that is intensely focused on attaining employment.

“There are some valuable resources available to assist people in meeting the work requirement and ultimately, to transition from government dependence to personal independence,’’ said Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “We are committed to helping people use these resources, as well as providing training, to get people back to work as quickly as possible.”

The DHHS will be sending notifications to those who must meet this requirement in the coming weeks.  This change, which must go through the rule-making and public hearing process, is scheduled to go into effect October 1.

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