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Report Touts The Need For TANF Program 

The battle over welfare reform is heating up in Augusta.Authors of a report released on Wednesday are hoping to convince lawmakers to think twice before making any major changes. Separating fact from fiction is the goal of a the report released by the Maine Equal Justice Partners and the Maine’s Women’s Lobby.The report takes a closer look at the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF program. It costs taxpayers around $28-million every year. There’s nearly 20 pieces of legislation aimed at welfare reform already being introduced by some Maine lawmakers.Sarah Standiford is the Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, one of the groups who put out the report. “There are 25,000 Maine children who are beneficiaries of the TANF program and the decisions made in this building are going to have an impact on many lives.”The report cites low wage work, lack of child care, unpaid child support, and disability as the leading reasons why TANF recipients need the program. Advocates for welfare programs say lawmakers need to be cautious of listening to, what they say, are anecdotes about fraud. “We hope people will recognize those as they are,” Says Christine Hastedt of the Maine Equal Justice Partners. “They are individual anecdotal experiences and not make policy based on specific anecdotes.” Hastedt says the group is in no way trying to defend fraud. “Nobody supports fraud in any public program. Whether it’s the income tax system or the TANF program,” She says. TANF recipients say they don’t know where they’d be without the program. People like Jessica Dube of Livermore Falls. Dube is a single mother of three working her way through nursing school. She says the state can’t afford to cut the program. “That’s scary, it really is,” Says Dube. “It’s not an easy program to get off of. As soon as your on it and you start to make a little bit of money, a little bit goes away.”Governor LePage’s spokesman Dan DeMeritt says the Governor understands people need some help from time to time. LePage is in favor of a tiered system that allows people to transition off welfare and toward sustainability. “I think the common ground is looking at people as individuals and finding out what the barriers are,” DeMeritt says. “Whether it’s transportation, child care, skill sets, and making the department work for people on an individual basis.”