AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday it will require nearly 12,000 able-bodied Food Stamp recipients to work, provide volunteer services, or participate in job training as a condition of receiving the federal welfare benefit.
“People who are in need deserve a hand up, but we should not be giving able-bodied individuals a handout,’’ said Gov. Paul R. LePage in a statement.
“We must continue to do all that we can to eliminate generational poverty and get people back to work,” he said. “We must protect our limited resources for those who are truly in need and who are doing all they can to be self-sufficient.”
Food Stamps are funded under the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) but are administered by states. The benefits are loaded onto Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards along with other welfare benefits. Unlike funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which can be spent on anything, Food Stamps can only be spent on food items.
According to DHHS, the policy will affect 12,000 current benefit recipients who account for approximately $15 million a year in benefits — or $1,250 per non-working able-bodied person.
“In order to meet work requirements, those who fall into this category must work a minimum of 20 hours a week or volunteer for a community agency for a certain number of hours, depending upon the value of the current Food Supplement benefit received. Participation in the Maine Department of Labor’s (DOL) Competitive Skills Scholarship Program, which helps individuals gain skills that will lead to higher paying jobs, also fulfills the work requirement,” DHHS said in a statement.
The idea that welfare programs should be a pathway to employment, rather than a permanent condition, is a bipartisan idea with roots in President Bill Clinton‘s 1996 welfare reforms.