Work and volunteer requirements imposed in 2014 have already affected 9,000 Maine residents. Republican Gov. Paul LePage implemented the work requirements in an attempt to remove so-called "freeloaders" from the state’s welfare system.
Starting in October 2014, healthy adults who did not have children were required to work at least 20 hours a week in order to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for more than three months.
Volunteer work or participation in work-training programs also fulfilled the requirements to receive food stamps. However, recipients only need to volunteer for a minimum of 24 hours per month.
David Sorensen, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Services, told the Associated Press that about 12,000 able-bodied adults without children were in the program before Jan. 1. That number has decreased to 2,680 this year.
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Many detractors of the new laws claim that there aren’t enough available positions to meet the work requirements. Barbara Chatterton, who works at the Down East Aids Network, said, “Northern Washington County really has never come out of the recession, so there aren't economic opportunities that there might be in other parts of the state.”
Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said that the work requirements were meant to incentivize people to start working.
“If you're on these programs it means you are living in poverty and so the more that we can help incentive people on that pathway to employment and self-sufficiency the better off they're going to be,” she said.
According to the state, about half of the 12,000 eligible adults should have been affected by the laws. The current numbers have far exceeded the state’s estimates. Additionally, someone who loses food stamp benefits is not eligible for three years.
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According to the Food and Nutrition Service branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maine was one of eight states that declined the federal waiver for 2015. Thirty-seven states were eligible. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that 1 million people would lose benefits throughout the U.S.
Sources: Huffington Post
Photo Source: Politico, indianapublicmedia.org