The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s released today its newest “Fix the System” report on Maine’s welfare system, which shows that while recent reforms by the LePage administration have improved the state’s system, more must be done to move Maine out of welfare dependency. See the entire report here.
The report uses updated numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services and other sources to show exactly where Maine’s welfare system stands.
According to the report, Maine is the only state in the country to rank in the top 10 of three major areas of welfare: Maine ranks sixth in percent of households receiving food stamps; second in the nation in percent of households receiving cash assistance; and third in the country in percent of population enrolled in Medicaid. Only California and Vermont have a higher percentage of their populations enrolled in Medicaid.
“This updated report makes it very clear once again that welfare reform should be a major issue for our leaders,” said MHPC CEO Scott Moody, co-author of the report. “While recent reforms have improved the system, more must be done to fix the system and free Maine families from welfare dependency.”
The report highlights reforms that were a priority of the LePage administration and passed by the current Legislature. Many of the reforms had been suggested in MHPC’s 2010 “Fix the System” report. Reforms that were successfully implemented include: a five-year limit on cash assistance; stricter sanctions for violation of program requirements; drug testing for welfare recipients accused of drug crimes; tightened Medicaid eligibility requirements; improvement of fraud detection; and a waiting period for legal non-citizens to get welfare benefits.
The report also highlights many policies that continue to push Maine to the top of welfare dependency nationally, including welfare eligibility levels that are among the highest in the country. To fix Maine’s welfare system, the report advocates for: increased tightening of eligibility levels; more effective use of diversion programs; further strengthening of job search and work requirements; and increasing agency accountability and program management.
“Maine has made some great strides in reforming our broken welfare system, but there is more work to be done to give Mainers the kind of system that is built to move our families from welfare to independence,” said Moody. “We must continue reform efforts to ensure that our welfare system focuses aid to the truly needy, encourages independence, rewards hard work and self-sufficiency and ultimately helps get Mainers back on their feet and free from dependence.