Maine GOP Wants Stricter Job Search Requirements For Welfare 

Mainers seeking cash welfare benefits would have to prove that they had already been looking for a job. That’s if Republican lawmakers have their way.

Welfare reform has been a rallying cry for Governor LePage and Maine Republicans for years. Wednesday, House Republican Leader Ken Fredette said Maine’s current welfare system leaves taxpayers feeling like they’re being taken advantage of.

“Over the past four decades, Democratic majorities in the legislature have built a welfare system that has created a culture of dependency and entitlement.”

House Republicans announced a pair of bills they’ll be introducing that makes job seeking requirements more stringent for people looking for cash benefits.

“Essentially what that bill does is if you are going in and you’re looking for TANF benefits it says that you need to also as part of your application show that you’ve also been out trying to find a job.”

Fredette’s bill would require that applicants prove they’ve applied for at least three jobs before they could receive cash benefits. 19 other states already require this.

The second bill puts limits on the reasons people can use to excuse them from the ASPIRE-TANF Work Search Program while receiving benefits. Fredette’s bill would outline specific reasons why someone collecting cash benefits would be exempt from this program.

Republicans cited one example of why this provision is necessary. The following is an actual case provided by the Office of Family Planning:

The Bangor ASPIRE office sanctioned an individual for failure to attend a scheduled appointment with an ASPIRE Specialist. The individual failed to appear for his scheduled appointment. He was notified of this appointment in writing. He was mailed a Good Cause notice allowing him 10 days to respond to the office if he felt he had good cause for failure to attend the scheduled appointment. When he failed to respond to that notice a sanction was imposed. He requested an administrative hearing where the hearings officer found in his favor stating the Department now needs to remove the sanction. The hearing officer found the client’s statement credible when he stated he received neither of the notices at his confirmed mailing address and that this was “within the meaning of ‘Any other reason resulting in failure to participate that is beyond the control of the participant or that a reasonable person would determine to be good cause’.

“If there’s reasons why people shouldn’t be looking for work it should be specified why they’re not looking for work. Such as if they don’t have a car or somebody has a sick parent at home,” Fredette said.

But these proposals have little chance of passing the Democratic controlled legislature. Maine Speaker of the House Mark Eves calls them a “cheap shot” at struggling Mainers.

“We need to focus on making sure that we’re providing opportunities and decreasing barriers for struggling families trying to make ends meet. not increase barriers and that’s all this bill does is make it harder for struggling families to get on their feet and move into the middle class. It’s again no more than scoring political points going into a campaign year and it’s not going to be something I can support,” Eves said.

Eves sponsored LD 1343, the “Ticket to Work Bill.” last session, a bill he says is a better approach to transition into the workforce. Among other things, Eves bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services to provide a comprehensive assessment to identify education and other programs recipients need for job placement.

Lawmakers will take up Fredette’s two bills in January, but it appears they’ll face an uphill climb.