For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Maine House and Senate Republican lawmakers on Friday afternoon rallied outside the State House to urge their Democratic colleagues to listen to their constituents and pass comprehensive welfare reform. They shared their own stories and those of their constituents regarding welfare abuse in Maine.
"As a town manager and a former police officer, I have a pretty good finger on the pulse of my community," said Rep. James Gillway (R-Searsport), sponsor of LD 1842, which eliminates exceptions to the TANF work search requirement. "Nearly everybody I encounter, whether a liberal or a conservative, believes we need to tighten up our welfare system. I've never heard anybody say 'we need to make welfare easier to get,' or 'I wish you would oppose the welfare reform measures being discussed in Augusta.'"
Rep. Sharri MacDonald (R-Old Orchard Beach) works as a clerk at a local convenience store and she spoke about the welfare abuse she witnesses regularly. She sponsored LD 1822, which would make it illegal to purchase tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, or post bail with welfare cash.
"Just the other day, a woman approached the cash register with a large bottle of wine and asked me, 'do you take EBT?' I told her 'no,' and the young lady proceeded across the street to another convenience store and came out with a bottle of wine," said Rep. MacDonald. "I'm the first in my community to help those in need, but every welfare dollar spent on a bottle of wine is a dollar stolen from a hungry child."
Rep. Mike Nadeau (R-Fort Kent) is the sponsor of LD 1820, which would prohibit the use of cash welfare benefits out of state. Roughly $2 million in TANF cash welfare has been withdrawn outside of Maine in 2011-2013, not including withdrawals in neighboring New Hampshire.
"Hardworking taxpayers are understandably upset because they are working extra hours, second jobs, just to make ends meet, and they don't mind helping the needy, but they feel taken advantage of," said Rep. Nadeau. "Most of the folks I know in the County could use a good vacation, but they shouldn't have to pay for someone else's when they can't afford one for themselves."
"All I have to do is walk into a small store and here the stories about EBTs and EBT abuse," added Sen. James Hamper (R-Oxford) of the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee. "We see the abuses, we all know the abuses, and yet one side is completely unwilling to do anything to take any steps toward changing the system."
The entire press conference is available for viewing on YouTube. The four welfare reform bills face further votes in the House and Senate. They were initially rejected along party lines in the House on Thursday afternoon.
Maine House Republicans
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