Laura Catevenis, a resident of Lewiston, was close to rock bottom. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and, two years later after having a child, she ended up on welfare. She was dependent on benefits she received from the TANF program, also known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, created by the federal government in Welfare Reform Act of 1996.
However, the state of Maine offered her an opportunity. Maine’s state TANF program has a partner program, ASPIRE, which aims to help TANF recipients learn necessary skills and find job opportunities that allow them to get out of poverty and off welfare. Counseling with ASPIRE, Laura Catevenis was given advice on how to escape poverty and launched a plan to start a business.
A few years later, Laura Catevenis is now the owner of a multimillion dollar business, Black Bear Support Services, which helps support children with developmental disabilities. Her success is a clear testament to the importance of Welfare-to-Work policies. Welfare-to-Work programs offer a glimmer of hope to those who are suffering in poverty and cannot figure out how to regain their financial footing.
Under the leadership of former Governor Paul LePage, the state of Maine instituted many reforms to provide a pathway for individuals to get off welfare. LePage’s administration contracted out the ASPIRE program, allowing FedCap Rehabilitation to facilitate the reentry of TANF recipients into Maine’s workforce. FedCap Rehabilitation is committed to reach a workforce participation rate of at least 50 percent among TANF recipients.
Additionally, Governor LePage instituted a 60-month lifetime limit on the usage of TANF benefits. This limit creates an incentive for welfare beneficiaries to look for work that will allow them to become financially secure and not have to rely on welfare. In 2014, LePage continued these reforms by instituting a work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps.
From December 2014 to September 2015, the number of able bodied adults without dependents relying on food stamps plummeted from 13,332 recipients to 1,886 recipients. More Mainers were able to transition off welfare by becoming financially stable due to these policies.
Welfare-to-Work policies lead to less dependency, pull individuals out of poverty and save taxpayers money. A joint report from Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Office of Policy and Management reveals that LePage’s policies were successful at achieving these goals. Welfare reforms are necessary to combat poverty and bring individuals into the middle class.
Maine’s welfare reforms were helping to improve the lives of thousands and created success stories just like Laura Catevenis. However, much of this important work has already been undone. Governor Mills on her first day in office through executive order implemented Maine’s unneeded Medicaid expansion to childless able bodied adults, and the governor also backed out of a plan to enforce work requirements within the state’s Medicaid program.
Big government policies and the modern welfare state are a failure and only penalize work, marriage and economic mobility. Instead of creating dependency, Maine needs to create incentives for the poor to work and rise to the middle class. Mainers must resist the urge to take from others and instead protect the necessary and successful welfare reforms implemented by Governor LePage that incentivize work.