For a number of years, Maine law has been more lenient than federal law in regard to work readiness requirements for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). As a result, more welfare recipients have been able to skip important job training activities, Maine’s work participation rate has declined and the federal government has rightfully threatened the state of Maine with up to $29 million in fines for refusing to reform to federal law.
Governor LePage unsuccessfully attempted to align Maine requirements with federal law in 2014 and again in 2015. Lawmakers wrongfully assumed that federal penalties would never come to fruition. Unfortunately, the federal government has called our bluff and the first $1 million in fines has come due, with more likely to follow.
Sponsored by House Republican Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport), LD 1631 would finally bring Maine’s welfare programs into compliance with federal requirements in hopes to stave off the assessment of further penalties. The bill would also establish a fund within DHHS to pay what has come due as a result of current non-compliance, including the $1 million already assessed.
This critical legislation is simply common sense. It is a fact that the best way to find a job and raise yourself up is by engaging in work training to acquire necessary skills and connections. Welfare should be a hand up, not a hand out and Maine taxpayers should not be forced to pay penalties due to this illogical non-compliance.