Commentary

LePage’s welfare reforms are lifting Mainers out of poverty

on

I love it when liberals are wrong.

Especially the self-indulgent keyboard warrior types who make it a priority to go out of their way to ruin your day.

After discussing the Maine People Alliance’s (MPA) bizarre and out of touch policy stances revealed through their 2016 Candidate Questionnaire in my last column, Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook took to Twitter, ribbing me for defending Gov. Paul LePage’s record on welfare reform.  The MPA, Gattine and other Maine liberals relish in phony full employment statistics, but hate to admit that Gov. LePage’s restructuring of Maine’s welfare system is positively impacting our local economies.

But then, just a few days later, a Forbes opinion writer penned an article on a report published in April by Maine’s Office of Policy and Management (OPM), helping prove the Governor’s welfare reforms have led to more employment, higher wages, and less government dependency in Maine.

The report highlights the millions of dollars saved by Maine taxpayers as a result of new reforms that require able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) seek employment, volunteer, or explore vocational learning opportunities at least part time to receive benefits.

Not only are taxpayers benefitting, but those who these policies were shaped to assist, the roughly 15,000 able-bodied childless adults enrolled in government assistance programs, are benefitting from reforms as well.

The report links administrative data from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  with employment data from the Maine Department of Labor, concluding that the ambitious welfare reforms by the LePage Administration have resulted in an influx of earned wages among ABAWD’s,  saving taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 to $40 million each year.

Using the data provided by the DHHS, the report divides the ABAWD’s into three cohorts. One group is composed of those who opted to comply with the new requirements, those who refused to comply, and those who were removed from the program for earning wages over the allowable limit.

Using the third quarter of 2014 as the pre-policy baseline quarter as the report suggests, those who refused to comply with the new requirements saw total wages increase by 114 percent through the fourth quarter of 2015. Average quarterly wage growth improved 77 percent over that span. Those who complied saw a 20 percent increase in total wages along with 32 percent average quarterly wage growth. The group of ABAWD’s who were removed from the program for earning over the allowable limit saw 24 percent total wage growth and 20 percent average quarterly growth.

Additionally, the cohort of ABAWD’s who were removed from the program had the highest average wage, with those refusing to comply receiving the lowest average wage.

And, by January 2015, the number of ABAWD on food stamps dropped to just 4,500 from approximately 15,000, and the number continues to decline. It’s estimated that only 1,500 able-bodied childless adults still rely on the program today.

Unfortunately, the report only included those found in the wage record system of the Department of Labor. Those who are self-employed, work on small farms, members of the military or student workers are absent from the report, as only wages earned that are subject to Maine’s unemployment insurance reporting regulations are present in the data. As the report and Forbes article highlight, if these self-employment statistics were available, the results would likely be even greater.

LePage’s reforms are moving Mainers out of the cyclical, never-ending pattern of generational poverty that thousands of Mainers have fallen into after years of failed leadership and mind-boggling policy adaptations that made government aid more accessible. Instead of using government as a crutch, these Mainers are now experiencing upward mobility through the incentive of work, rather than relying on government benefits as a means of survival.

Kansas has experienced similar successes from these policy reforms. If other states would follow the lead set by Kansas and Maine, millions across the country would be lifted out of poverty, stimulating local economies and ending government dependency and other failed policies that have truly never ended poverty.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is a policy analyst for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

Recommended for you

Comments