Welfare

House Democrats’ vote allows out-of-state welfare spending to continue

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Maine Democrats want welfare dollars, collected from the hardworking taxpayers of Maine, to be spent outside of our state.

Maine welfare dollars have been used in purchases throughout the entire country, as well as the Virgin Islands and Guam. Between 2011 and 2015, Maine taxpayers paid for $65 million in out-of-state welfare spending. Since 2011, Maine welfare recipients have spent $3.7 million in Florida, $5.2 million in Massachusetts and over $1 million in New York and Connecticut.

Additionally, a Sun Journal report published in 2014 found that 365,000 electronic benefit transfer (EBT) transactions were made outside of Maine in 2013 alone, totaling $13.9 million in out-of-state spending by EBT beneficiaries. The report also highlighted information from law enforcement officials who confirmed some welfare recipients trade their EBT cards and PIN numbers to drug dealers, saying this transaction happens “more often than you think.”

Maine had a chance to end to this reckless, unfettered spending on Monday, but Democrats in the House squashed LD 886, sponsored by Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Androscoggin, on a vote along party lines. The bill would have prohibited the use of EBT cards outside of Maine. 

Under the leadership of Gov. Paul LePage and former DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew, Maine has made great strides in reforming its welfare system. With sound fiscal management and policies that incentivize work, Maine has been able to reserve millions in TANF funds for low-income families and children who truly need our help.

The SNAP program, also known as food stamps, has seen great success as well. Reforms enacted under LePage that require able-bodied adults work or volunteer to receive benefits has translated into a 114 percent rise in incomes for those who left the program. These Mainers are now moving toward independence and self-sufficiency as expected by the LePage Administration and conservative leaders across the state.

While there are a number of legitimate reasons to be spending money outside of Maine, the frequency of these transactions and the high-volume of current spending should alarm both taxpayers and the Maine Legislature.

Maine’s welfare funds should be secured for those in our state who truly need them, and there is no doubting that abuse of the system is ongoing. Maine Democrats are out of touch with working Maine on the issue of welfare, and their vote on LD 886 is the most recent example.

How can liberals in Maine justify allowing welfare dollars be spent in the Virgin Islands and Guam? The better question, perhaps – if you’re on welfare, by what means can you afford trips to these luxurious vacation destinations? Our collective tax dollars should not be the answer.

“It’s time to ensure that our benefits are going to support needy Maine families, not those who can afford to go on vacations, or even worse, aren’t actually residents of Maine,” Sen. Brakey said in a press release earlier this session. “Allowing this behavior to continue puts the resource at risk for Mainers who properly use and truly need the safety net.”

Disregarding the facts about out-of-state welfare spending is a tremendous disservice to Maine taxpayers and those who will remain trapped in poverty without further, necessary reforms of our system.

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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