For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Governor Paul LePage announced Thursday that Maine is facing an additional $7 million in federal penalties for a low work participation rate in its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash welfare program in 2011.
Maine already faces $13 million in similar penalties for 2007-2010, bringing the total to over $20 million in fines for Maine's notoriously loose welfare system.
"The two welfare reform bills I introduced that were shot down by majority Democratic lawmakers recently would have had a direct impact on Maine's TANF work participation rate," said House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. "Doing nothing and hoping for the best is not an option."
Rep. Fredette introduced two bills last fall that would have increased Maine's work participation rate in the TANF program, but Democratic leaders refused to allow them into the 2014 legislative session. Governor LePage then re-introduced them on Rep. Fredette's behalf.
One bill would have required job-ready TANF applicants to apply for at least three jobs before receiving benefits. The other would have eliminated several loopholes commonly used to avoid the work participation requirement for current welfare recipients.
"The only people I've met who oppose these measures are liberal politicians at the State House," said Rep. Fredette. "These are commonsense measures that would have improved work participation moving forward."
To avoid federal penalties, two-parent households on TANF must have an 87.5 percent work participation rate. Maine's was just 18.7 percent, or less than one-quarter, of that requirement in 2011.
"To sit back and hope that the federal chickens don't come home to roost would be shockingly irresponsible and symbolic of the attitude that got us here in the first place," added Assistant House Republican Leader Alex Willette of Mapleton. "When you require people to look for work before looking for welfare, and you eliminate loopholes in the work search requirement, you're going to see more people working."
"Maine already ranks second in the nation for welfare spending as a share of overall state spending," added Rep. Willette. "It would be completely unacceptable to saddle Maine taxpayers with another $20 million burden because Democratic politicians refused to tighten Maine's lax welfare system."
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 205-7793