Governor Urges Lawmakers to Pass his Welfare Reform Bills

June 12, 2015

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 12, 2015
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

Three major reform bills pending initial votes before the House, Senate

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage on Friday called on lawmakers to enact three of his welfare reform bills, which are separate from the budget and are pending votes before the Maine House and Senate.

The bills include LD 1375, a comprehensive welfare reform bill which would create an up-front work search requirement for welfare, a ban on benefits’ use out of state or for certain items including alcohol and cigarettes, and would eliminate loopholes in the current work requirement.

Also included are LD 1402, which would alleviate the “welfare cliff” and encourage work, and LD 1407, which would help ensure a drug-free welfare system by expanding the use of drug testing for welfare benefits.

“These are reforms that Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree upon,” said Governor LePage. “They would help move Mainers from welfare to work and ensure that benefits are being used the right way. Mainers have spoken loud and clear and they expect more accountability in our welfare system. What Augusta politicians have been doing for the past few decades simply hasn’t worked—they have failed the poor—and it’s time for change. I urge lawmakers to pass these bills.”

LD 1375 combines four bills introduced in 2014 which were rejected by majority lawmakers. One difference is that the new bill expands prohibited welfare purchases to tattoos. With a new legislature and the increasing demand for welfare reform among Maine citizens, the LePage Administration expects that LD 1375 will stand a better chance of passage than its predecessors.

LD 1402 is built on bipartisan support for addressing the “welfare cliff” that recipients approach as they begin working and stand to lose all of their benefits at once, making the transition from welfare to work difficult. It would increase the amount of income that is “disregarded” for the purposes of determining welfare eligibility, but it would require recipients to work and would not add new families to the welfare rolls.

LD 1407 would require all Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants to take a Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI) test to help the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) gauge whether the applicant is likely currently abusing drugs. The bill would give DHHS authority to require applicants who fail the SASSI screening to take a urinalysis drug test. A positive drug test would require applicants to attend substance abuse counseling as a condition of receiving benefits, which could be terminated for failure to participate.

These are common sense reforms to ensure that taxpayer funds are assisting eligible individuals on a pathway to self-sufficiency and not a lifetime of dependency,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “Maine’s welfare programs have needed comprehensive restructuring to break the cycle of generational dependency and to hold welfare recipients accountable for their actions that are contrary to the goals of employment and financial stability. Mainers have spoken loudly in favor of these reforms and it’s time now for legislators to act swiftly and pass these bills.”