Maine Program Reforms Have Led to Big Welfare Declines-Mostly Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
Blog sites are reporting that reforms made to Maine’s welfare program have led to a massive reduction in the number of people who collect welfare in the state.
Maine has made a number of welfare reforms in recent years, but claims about the impact they’ve had on welfare numbers in the state have been exaggerated or are incorrect.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage made welfare reform a key issue in his 2014 reelection campaign, but the reform that has made the biggest impact in the state took effect before Gov. LePage’s re-election.
In July 2014, Gov. LePage announced that Maine would no longer seek a federal waiver that allowed some able-bodied adults to receive food stamps without meeting minimum work requirements. That means those who receive food stamps in Maine have to work 20 hours a week, volunteer at a community agency or enroll in a vocational program, the Portland Press Herald reports:
(The Maine Department of Health and Human Services) has identified 12,000 current recipients in Maine who fit that definition. They represent about 5 percent of all food stamp recipients and collectively receive about $15 million per year in benefits, or about 4.4 percent of all food stamp dollars that come to Maine. It’s not known how many of these would fail to satisfy the work requirement.
By April 2015, Maine had seen a “dramatic drop” in able-bodied adults on food stamps. In the first four months of 2015, the number of able-bodied adults on food stamps in the state had dropped 70%, from 12,000 to 2,680.
Still, the claim that Maine welfare reform has led to a “nearly 80% reduction in welfare” isn’t true. It led to a 70% reduction in able-bodied adults who receive food stamps — who made up about 5% of all food stamp recipients before the reform took effect.
So, a claim making its way around the blogosphere that Maine has seen an 80% reduction in welfare recipients is false.
And a number of Maine’s welfare reforms sited in these blog posts have only been in effect for months, so their impact isn’t yet known.
In April 2015, for example, Maine started drug screening some recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Family program (commonly known as TANF) who had criminal records. By June 2015, just 15 recipients had drug screenings scheduled. Thirteen didn’t show up, and one failed the drug test, the Associated Press reports.
In June 2015, Gov. LePage said Maine would move forward with a plan to cut off general assistance benefits to illegal aliens and undocumented immigrants. DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew estimated the plan would affect about 1,000 people and would save the state about $1 million a year, the Portland Press Herald reports.
So those welfare reforms may reduce the number of beneficiaries in the state at some point, but they haven’t been around long enough to make a difference.