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(L-R) Reps. Dennis Keschl, Kathy Chase, Ken Fredette, Tom Winsor, and Ellie Espling roll out welfare reform legislation Wednesday at the State House.
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For Immediate Release

Date: 10/02/13

Rep. Fredette Introduces Welfare Reform Bills

Designed to bring accountability and limits to Maine's welfare system

AUGUSTA - House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport has introduced two pieces of legislation designed to reform Maine's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash welfare program. Both bill proposals have been submitted to the legislature's Office of the Revisor of Statutes, where legislation is printed. The Revisor's Office is currently working on language for the bills.

The first proposal would institute an up-front work search requirement of job-ready TANF applicants. Meaning, in order for a person to receive cash welfare assistance through TANF or from a diversion program using alternative aid, they must, as a part of the application process, submit documentation showing that they have applied for at least three jobs prior to seeking benefits. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 other states and the District of Columbia have similar front-end work search requirements. They include "red" states like Georgia and Alaska, and "blue" states like New York and Vermont.

"This is a requirement that's common in other states, and I think most Mainers would agree that we shouldn't be giving out welfare to able-bodied people who haven't even looked for a job yet," said Fredette.

The second proposal would modify or eliminate exceptions to participation in the ASPIRE-TANF work search program, outlined in 22 MRSA Sec. 3785. Working in consultation with the Office of Family Independence (OFI) at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Rep. Fredette wrote his bill to make the following changes:

1. Eliminate subsection 9, "Good cause," and subsection 12, "Other good cause." These are catch-all exceptions that eat the rule, and OFI was not sure why the legislature had written two exceptions that essentially say the same thing.

2. Amend subsection 5, "Inclement weather," to define "inclement weather" as whenever state offices are closed. The ambiguity of this exception has been abused.

3. The bill also amends 22 MRSA Sec. 3785-A, "Sanction Process," Subsection 1(B), "Procedures," to add the following language: "A 'Notice of Adverse Action to Close or Reduce Benefits' meets the notice requirements in 1(B)." This change prevents needless duplication of notifications as to sanctions under the ASPIRE-TANF program.

"The purpose of these bills is to help ensure that our welfare programs are focused on moving people from welfare to work, and not the other way around," said Fredette. "These are reforms that reflect Maine values. We shouldn't be giving welfare to job-ready applicants who haven't even looked for a job, and nobody should be able to game the system in order to avoid work search and job training requirements while receiving cash welfare benefits from hardworking Maine taxpayers."

"I would like to thank DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew for her help in putting this legislation together," added Fredette. "She and the rest of the LePage Administration have changed the culture at state welfare agencies so that the focus is finally on helping Mainers gain financial self-sufficiency, and no longer on perpetuating inter-generational dependence."

As a symbol of Republicans' commitment to changing the culture at DHHS, the LePage Administration changed the name of the agency that administers TANF, food stamps, and other benefits from the "Office of Integrated Access and Support" to the "Office of Family Independence."

"Our policies should be focused on achieving independence from welfare, not more and more access to it," said Fredette. "It is in that spirit that I introduce these two bills today."

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Contact:
David Sorensen
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793