Maine’s welfare system undermines hard work and traps parents and children in poverty. We must fix the system to free families from dependency through accountability and hard work.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) released a 35-page report examining Maine’s vast welfare system to provide an in-depth look at the causes of Maine’s growing government dependency crisis. The report, Fix the System: Freeing Maine Families from Welfare Dependency explains the various policies within Maine’s welfare system that have caused a major spike in enrollment, and offers solutions to reduce that welfare dependence.
“Today, one in three Mainers is on some form of welfare,” explained Tarren Bragdon, MHPC chief executive officer and an author of the report. “During the Baldacci administration alone, welfare system enrollment grew 70 percent. By any measure, Maine is the most welfare-dependent state in the nation. Maine ranks second in the nation in the percent of its population on Food Stamps, second for TANF cash assistance, and second for Medicaid.”
Many of Maine’s welfare system policies are out of the mainstream and have contributed to such a high level of welfare enrollment. For example, Maine offers TANF cash assistance to non-citizens, as well as convicted drug felons. Further, a convicted drug felon faces no requirements such as drug treatment or testing to receive TANF benefits.
More troubling, however, is the wide-range of benefits available to individuals, which has increased dependency on the welfare system and has undermined hard work. Mainers in the welfare system, the report explains, can get cash benefits, health care, food supplements, rental assistance, transportation benefits, child care, job training, and subsidies for electricity and heating oil. This vast level of taxpayer assistance for welfare enrollees, combined with liberal eligibility requirements, lengthy and unenforced time limits, and a failure to enforce what few rules are written into the system have caused an explosion of welfare dependency. Without reforms, by 2013, more Mainers will be enrolled in the welfare system than are working in the private sector.
The cost, both fiscal and moral, of such a massive welfare bureaucracy is huge. In 2008 alone, Maine spent $2.506 billion on its welfare system-more than it spent on attracting new jobs ($47.6 million) and K-12 public education ($2.278 billion). Despite this massive cost to fund Maine’s welfare system, the portion of Mainers living in poverty is actually growing (from 10.3 percent in 2001 to 10.9 percent in 2007).
“There are three steps Maine must take to reduce dependence on Maine’s welfare system,” said Steve Bowen, MHPC Center for Education Excellence Director and co-author of the report. “We must focus aid on the truly needy, we must define success as new paychecks not more welfare checks, and we must overhaul the welfare bureaucracy to insert greater accountability and efficiency. Such reforms, explained in detail in the report, will mean a stronger, more prosperous Maine, and a more effective welfare system in place for online casino the individuals who need it most.”
Click here to read Fix the System: Freeing Maine Families from Welfare Dependence.
Visit the Maine Freedom Forum to read Tarren Bragdon’s and Steve Bowen’s blogs on ending dependence on Maine’s welfare system.