Commentary

Meaningful Welfare Reform Is More Than a Campaign Slogan

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Due to pressure from some socialist legislators and progressive lobbyists, Senator Nathan Libby (D-Androscoggin) intends to introduce an amendment to his welfare reform bill, LD 1097, today at 1:00 p.m. in the Health and Human Services Committee to water down certain measures of the bill, including a significant reduction in penalties for the misuse of welfare dollars.

As drafted, LD 1097 would restrict the use of TANF benefits outside the state of Maine and New Hampshire, the withdrawal of more than 25% of  benefits in cash each month, and a prohibition on using welfare funds to purchase certain items such as tobacco products, liquor and lottery tickets.

The watered down amendment would replace the out-of-state spending and cash withdrawal provisions with a provision to allow some welfare funds to transfer be transferred to the Maine State Housing Authority in order to make direct payments to landlords.

Conservatives, lead by Representative Deborah Sanderson (R-Chelsea), are standing strong in opposition to the continued use of Maine EBT cards in states other than Maine and New Hampshire. According to Sanderson, the amendment also has “no teeth” for welfare recipients who misuse funds to purchase items such as tobacco, liquor and lottery tickets.

Conservatives intend to offer an amendment to maintain the language to prohibit EBT card use outside of Maine and New Hampshire and have included actual penalties for abusers, including a lifetime ban for repeat offenders. Under the Libby amendment, a third offense would only result in a six-month suspension of benefits.

The people of Maine have been clear about the need for real, substantive welfare reform. Don’t let liberals on the HHS Committee pander to the progressive lobby and sidestep the issue any longer.

About Krysta West

Krysta West is the Communications Director for The Maine Heritage Policy Center. Prior to her time with MHPC, Krysta served as a Legislative Assistant at the National Rifle Association. Krysta is a native of Arundel, Maine, and has served as an aide in the Maine Legislature.

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