Press Release

March 23, 2016

Maine saves more than $89 million through welfare reforms

TANF funds saved through time limits on welfare will create long-term financial stability and fund critical programs to help families achieve independence

TANF funds saved through time limits on welfare will create long-term financial stability and fund critical programs to help families achieve independence

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today its ongoing plan to use more than $89 million in funds generated through Governor Paul R. LePage’s common-sense welfare reforms. The Department's plan will ensure the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is adequately funded to handle potential downturns in Maine's economy, as well as support programs that are critical to protecting children and assisting families on their path to independence and self-sufficiency.

In his initial budget, Governor LePage proposed, and the legislature approved, a lifetime limit of 60 months for individuals receiving cash and other assistance through the TANF program. That five-year limit is the federal requirement, which was previously ignored by Maine. Only four other states have no time limit on TANF and many others limit benefits further such as RI (48 months) CT (21 months) and AZ (12 months). This and other TANF reforms have allowed Maine to preserve over $89 million in federal TANF block grant funds which Maine is actively repurposing and deploying to help low income families.

DHHS has developed a long-range vision for the program that ensures fiscal stability while making worthwhile investments in programs that support Maine families. Prior to 2013, when the TANF program was primarily focused on giving out benefits as cash, DHHS spent every penny of the grant each year. This kept the Department from planning and preparing for the future.

Now, DHHS is able to make strategic investments with TANF savings to take a targeted approach to supporting Maine’s most vulnerable. This allows the state to serve an even larger number of low-income families than just those directly enrolled in the TANF program and receiving TANF cash benefits.

"This is a great example of how effective welfare policy and sound fiscal management create opportunities for Maine," said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. "Now, instead of simply handing out welfare in the form of cash, we are able to support low-income families with a wide variety of services and supports that truly have a positive impact on their stability as a family, their training and education and their employment prospects."

Some of the primary areas where DHHS is utilizing resources include increased TANF funding for child welfare and foster care, domestic violence supports and tax credits for low-income individuals. Using TANF funds in this way also creates opportunities to save state funds.

Details on the use of TANF funds include the following:

Additional planned investments in low income Maine families include:

"Today Maine is in a financial position to invest in quality programs that support our neediest families, while also responsibly managing these resources for the long-term. Our vision includes utilizing funds actively in a thoughtful and strategic manner that also preserves sufficient funding for a potential downturn in the economy," said Mayhew. "In the past, Maine legislators and agencies rushed to spend every dollar taxpayers sent our way. Fortunately, this administration recognizes the importance of projecting for future needs and acting with prudence. We plan to balance funding for new programs with financial stability."