Thanks to continued efforts by Governor Paul LePage, the amount of Maine welfare funds spent outside of Maine have decreased to nearly half the level they were at when he took office in 2011. In 2011, the amount spent outside of Maine totaled $15.9 million. Today, that number is down to $8.9 million.
According to Governor LePage, “Maine’s welfare programs should support Maine’s neediest families and children, not those who live in other states, take a vacation to Disney World or gas up their car for a trip to Lowell, Massachusetts to buy heroine.”
Democratic Representatives have been critical of any efforts to enact meaningful reforms to Maine’s overly generous welfare system even though such reforms are necessary to ensure the future integrity of the welfare system for those who need it most. However, Governor LePage has said that “Despite the Legislature’s failure to act, we are following through on our promise to the Maine people by preventing welfare fraud abuse, protecting our limited welfare benefits for our neediest citizens and making sure tax dollars aren’t being wasted.”
Although $8.9 million is still an unacceptable amount of welfare being spent outside of the boarders of Maine, it is a step in the right direction. Under Governor LePage, the Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit has doubled in size and welfare fraud prosecutions have skyrocketed, Maine DHHS has instituted an asset test for food stamp recipients, and the state instituted a work requirement for adults without disabilities or children to work 20 hours per week or volunteer one hour per day after receiving SNAP benefits for 3 months, resulting in 9,000 fewer childless able-bodied adults receiving benefits.