Speaker of the House Sara Gideon is trying to pull a fast one on Mainers. She is pushing a bill to expand welfare, and she claims there is $150 million to pay for it. Folks, it’s not true.
Once again, Speaker Gideon is being disingenuous—to put it politely. She claims DHHS has $150 million in federal funds for welfare that are not being used. That is totally false. This money is in the DHHS spending plan. Instead of handing out cash benefits—like previous administrations did—DHHS is investing this money in programs that directly benefit at-risk youth and families in need.
The money is helping Mainers transition from welfare to work. But Gideon doesn’t like that plan. She wants to use the money to keep more Mainers on welfare. Like most limousine liberals, Gideon thinks throwing money at poverty helps poor people.
It doesn’t. The last forty years in Maine should prove that notion. And I know poverty because I’ve been there. Rich liberals like Gideon have not walked in my shoes. She doesn’t understand poverty—and she never will.
Through sound fiscal management and policies that help Mainers escape poverty, DHHS has been able to free up TANF funding for programs that serve more low-income families and children.
We are now able to support at-risk children and their families through our pro-job, anti-poverty programs.
For example, DHHS dedicates $1.5 million in TANF funding to youth programs that reduce risky behaviors, promote job skills and encourage educational achievement. This money goes to agencies such as My Place Teen Center, Trekkers, KVCAP and the Maine Leadership Institute.
Another $300,000 supports programs like Good Will-Hinckley to help young people with their education and employment goals.
After we required able-bodied adults to comply with federal work requirements for food stamps, we saw them moving toward independence.
Their incomes rose 114% within a year of leaving the program. Their average quarterly wage is now above the Federal Poverty Level.
Furthermore, there are plenty of jobs out there. Unemployment is at 3 percent, and businesses need employees. Now is a good time to move from welfare to work. That’s why our administration is proposing a bill to make our common-sense welfare reforms permanent. We’ve shown we can empower able-bodied Mainers to become more self-sufficient.
But Speaker Gideon and some of her colleagues want to roll back these reforms and keep more Mainers trapped in poverty. She claims child poverty has increased. But between 2004 and 2016, Maine’s overall number of children living in poverty rate has gone down.
If she wants Maine children to prosper, Speaker Gideon should focus on creating good jobs. Good jobs—not government handouts—create stable families, stronger communities and a more prosperous state.
So if she really wants to help poor people, Speaker Gideon should put away her checkbook, roll up her sleeves and join us in moving Mainers from welfare to work.