AUGUSTA – House Republicans rolled out two welfare reforms on Monday targeting Maine’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash welfare program.
Both proposals were quickly rejected by Democratic leadership has an attack on poor people.
The first bill would require those seeking cash benefits to look for work before obtaining public assistance, while the second would clear up ambiguities in the statutory language governing the ASPIRE-TANF welfare program.
Both were introduced by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport).
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 18 other states and the District of Columbia have similar front-end work search requirements, according to the House Republican Office.
“They include “red” states like Georgia and Alaska, and “blue” states like New York and Vermont,” House Republicans said in a press release.
“This is a requirement that’s common in other states, and I think most Mainers would agree that we shouldn’t be giving out welfare to able-bodied people who haven’t even looked for a job yet,” said Fredette.
“The purpose of these bills is to help ensure that our welfare programs are focused on moving people from welfare to work, and not the other way around,” said Fredette. “We shouldn’t be giving welfare to job-ready applicants who haven’t even looked for a job, and nobody should be able to game the system in order to avoid work search and job training requirements while receiving cash welfare benefits from hardworking Maine taxpayers.”
Democratic leadership denounced the proposed welfare reforms within hours.
House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) told MaineToday Media that he would not support Fredette’s proposals, which he said were attempts by the GOP to vilify poor people.
“It’s easy for politicians to vilify families like these that are struggling to get on their feet again simply to score political points. That’s all these bills are and I won’t be supporting them,” said Eves, according to the MTM report.
Enacting a work search requirement was a key element of bipartisan welfare reform passed at the federal level in 1996 during the Clinton Administration. That requirement, however, applied only while individuals were receiving benefits.
Fredette’s measure would require seekers of cash assistance to demonstrate that they had looked for a job before turning to the government for help.
Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, called the Democrats’ rejection of welfare reform a “knee-jerk reaction.”
“It looks like the Maine Democrats are following the lead of their national counterparts in refusing to consider even commonsense reforms,” said Savage.
“It’s becoming clear that the Republicans are the party of ideas, while the Democrats are the party of No.”
Maine Wire Reporter