Maine Food Stamp Enrollment Drops To Lowest Level In Six Years

| by Nicholas Roberts
Maine Gov. Paul LePage.Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

Maine's Republican Gov. Paul LePage is touting new numbers from his state that indicate Maine has the lowest number of people enrolled in the state's food stamp program since 2009, according to The Associated Press.

Maine officials said the number of state residents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was at 199,157, a number that was only slightly lower in February 2009. The new figure comes as a large drop from a high of 255,663 enrolled in February 2012.

The state's Department of Health and Human Services stated that tougher requirements for SNAP benefits, along with a drop in unemployment, have led to more in Maine supporting themselves.

"These welfare programs should be a temporary form of assistance. We should always be striving to help people back on to that pathway of employment to help support themselves on that next step," said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

The news follows an effort to remove residents from welfare rolls if they have more than $5,000 in assets, according to Hot Air.

LePage went on Facebook to celebrate the news, writing: “According to federal statistics at Federal Nutrition Service (FNS), Maine ranked first in the nation for its reduction in food stamp dependency in 2014.”

He was also keen to point out that Maine's unemployment rate in August 2015 was at 4.5 percent, a full 1 percent lower than it was in December 2014, just after LePage won re-election as governor.

Not everyone agrees with LePage that the reform will help Mainers. Chris Hastedt, the public policy director at Maine Equal Justice Partners, said she still sees people having trouble finding good-paying, full-time and consistent work, according to WCSH 6.

Hastedt says that there is still a lack of assistance in helping people find jobs.

She said, "I hear language that says this is a good thing because it is forcing people to work. People don't need to be forced to work. People need to be helped to find a job."

Enrollment in state welfare programs is expected to decline further once DHHS begins asset testing for applicants for items worth around $5,000, including snowmobiles, jet skis, boats and campers.

Sources: AP via Portland Press Herald, Hot Air, WCSH 6 / Photo credit: Maine Governor's Office