Gov. Paul LePage and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew introduced on Tuesday the Welfare Reform for Increased Security and Employment Act, or RISE Act, which would solidify many of LePage’s executive actions on welfare reform into state law.
The RISE Act, according to LePage and Republican colleagues, would enhance the work requirements to receive welfare funds, deter fraud of the system and lead to less overall entitlement spending in Maine.
“These reforms have restored confidence in Maine’s welfare system for the taxpayers who fund them. An able-bodied, 30-year-old man without kids should not be able to collect food stamps,” LePage said Tuesday during a news conference.
LePage and Mayhew referred to recent executive actions on welfare as “common-sense” reforms to Maine’s system that must be to stamped into state law to prevent future administrations from undoing what has created an “employment-focused pathway to self-sufficiency” for struggling Mainers.
“They can also be reversed by the next governor. That is why it’s so important to make these common-sense reforms permanent in state law,” LePage said.
Reforms in the RISE Act include placing photographs on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, requiring able-bodied adults to work or enroll in training programs for 20 hours per week and codifying a $5,000 asset test on certain households that receive assistance.
“Now is the time to create permanency around the common sense welfare reforms implemented by this Administration. We must protect the progress made in transforming Maine’s welfare programs and breaking the cycle of government dependency and generational poverty,” Mayhew said.
Additionally, the reforms would ban or suspend parents uncooperative with child support services and repeat drug offenders from receiving assistance, and disqualify lottery winners of $5,000 or more from eligibility.
“This is what the people of Maine want to see, they want to know their tax dollars are being put to good use,” LePage said in a press release. “From day one I have advocated for accountability. Poverty is not a disability, it is a state of affairs. Rather than throwing money at a problem like previous administrations have, we must roll up our sleeves and work with people and teach them how to succeed. This includes promoting personal responsibility and integrity.”
The bill has not yet been written but is already sponsored by House Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport.
“We’ve seen the positive outcomes of these reforms and how it helps strengthen Maine’s economy by putting people back to work,” Mayhew said. “We cannot ignore this and we cannot allow this success to be overturned.”