Maine’s House Speaker Introduces Plan To Help Get People From Welfare To Work 

Maine’s Speaker of the House has announced his plan to get people off of public assistance and back to work.House Speaker Mark Eves, a North Berwick Democrat, has introduced his first major legislative proposal, a bill that he says will help transition people from welfare to the workforce. “It’s really an example of how we can make government work better for those that are on public assistance and save taxpayer dollars,” Eves said Wednesday.Eves said his bill will identify barriers that have traditionally prevented people from getting off programs like Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF). The newly elected speaker said it will also identify the skills needed to get Mainers back to work.Last session, lawmakers put a 5 year cap on people who receive TANF benefits, which means as soon as they start on public assistance the clock is ticking. “As individuals walk through the front door, what do they need? What are the barriers to employment so that they get the tools and the skills they need to transition out of our public assistance programs and into the middle class,” Eves said.Eves introduced a similar bill last session and it got early bipartisan support. But that support dwindled when it was determined it would cost close to a $1 million to implement his plan. That money would have paid for new staffing positions, according to Eves.Now he says he’s significantly reduced that cost and he’s hoping both sides and the governor will be supportive. “I’m certainly supportive of the concept because, ultimately, both Democrats and Republicans agree that what we really want to do is take people from welfare to work,” said House Minority Leader Ken Fredette.Fredette said Republican leadership is still a little leery of the proposal. “I haven’t seen all the details yet, but the only thing I’m concerned about is the fiscal note or the cost of the bill.”The bill is expected to be assigned to committee and public hearings should be scheduled soon.