May 8, 2015
Maine Leads Nation in Food Stamp Reduction
Dependency declines as reform meets wage, employment growth
AUGUSTA – New data [http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/pd/29SNAPcurrPP.pdf ] from the Federal Nutrition Service (FNS) shows that Maine ranked first in the nation for declines in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP—or "food stamp") dependency in 2014.
The number of Mainers on food stamps dropped from 235,771 in January 2014 to 201,557 in January 2015—a drop of 14.5 percent. Enrollment nationally dropped an average of just 1.1 percent. More than 10,000 of those leaving dependency did so between December 2014 and January 2015, as Governor Paul R. LePage's Administration implemented a work, volunteer, or education requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) on SNAP.
Wyoming ranked a close second with its 14.3 percent drop in food stamp dependency, but Maine and Wyoming together were welfare "outliers"—as other states followed with 11.1, 10.2, and 10.1 percent dependency declines.
"It's good to see Maine as a leader in reforming our welfare programs," said Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. "With a clear focus on jobs and common sense reforms which incentivize self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, we are helping Mainers to begin the transition from poverty to prosperity."
In the same time period, from January 2014 to 2015, Maine’s unemployment rate dropped from 6.0 to 5.2 percent. The average weekly wage [http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ces.html ] in the Bangor metro region increased 10.7 percent and in the Portland-South Portland Metro, 7.8 percent.
As of January 1, 2015, Maine began requiring ABAWDs to work for 20 hours, volunteer for one hour per day, or attend an educational program in order to maintain their benefits. The number of ABAWDs on SNAP dropped from 12,000 to 2,500 thereafter.
On Monday, May 4, Democrats on the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee voted on party lines to support LD 1052 [http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280055730 ], a rollback of this new work requirement.
"We are faced with a clear choice of whether to continue on the path of reform and new priorities for our welfare system, or return to the status quo of seemingly unlimited welfare benefits and devastating generational dependency," added Commissioner Mayhew. "LD 1052 would take us backward to the failed policies of the past and I am truly appalled that it received the support of Democratic lawmakers. This bill must be stopped when it reaches the full Legislature if we want to continue this positive trend of work over welfare that has marked Governor LePage’s tenure."