Commentary

Maine DHHS Uncovers $1.7 Million in Welfare Fraud

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Few things are more enjoyable than watching liberals eat their talking points.

Prior to Paul LePage’s gubernatorial run and victory in 2011, Maine liberals wanted us to believe that there was no active fraud or abuse of Maine’s  welfare system, and that every last penny in the program was being spent on struggling Mainers who truly needed our support.

What a load of hooey.

As we’ve learned now, after years of careful inspection and oversight of our state’s welfare system, this simply isn’t true.

While Democrats bombastically attacked LePage over the years for targeting low-income Mainers, his administration got to work uncovering abuses to the system that harm every tax-paying citizen in Maine.

And, what LePage’s DHHS has found during his tenure will force liberals to hold their tongue before echoing their unintelligible remarks about welfare abuse in the future.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit (FIRU) last week revealed they had uncovered more than $1.7 million in welfare theft from Maine taxpayers in the year 2016.

Specific incidents of theft included lying about income, falsifying document, claiming benefits owed to a deceased person, and selling a child’s prescription medication. In total, DHHS’ fraud unit brought a record $1,701,983 in welfare fraud and abuse cases for prosecution.

Approximately 174 total cases of fraud were uncovered in 2017, 93 of which were referred to the Attorney General’s office and 81 that were referred to federal prosecutors.

“We are pleased that our efforts to reign (sic) in welfare fraud, waste and abuse continue to pay off. We’ve not only made significant progress towards turning back the wave of welfare dependency that overtook Maine for so many years, but we’re doing our part to help stamp out the fraudulent use of benefits. We need to uphold the integrity of our welfare system and ensure scarce taxpayer resources are going to the neediest and most vulnerable,” DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said in a press release.

Mayhew and the DHHS have been cracking down on welfare fraud and reforming the system since LePage appointed Mayhew to her post, and her FIRU has uncovered more fraud each year they’ve been tracking data.

In 2015, for example, the FIRU exposed what was then a record $1.2 million in welfare fraud.

While conservatives like LePage acknowledge that welfare benefits are necessary for those who truly need it, these entitlement programs cannot become a permanent crutch for struggling Mainers. It is the duty of government to protect these benefits for those most vulnerable, and to ensure those receiving benefits are using them both properly and effectively to overcome poverty.

Without these reforms and probes into abuse of the system, we’d be left to believe what liberals have long offered us – something that we know to be untrue: Welfare fraud doesn’t exist in Maine.

It does exist, however, and the 2016 numbers can be viewed here.

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.

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