Governor Paul LePage has recently announced several welfare reform proposals in the hopes of further eliminating poverty in Maine, while also greatly reducing welfare abuse. LePage made these proposals as a result of data showing that over 3,000 EBT transactions were made at smoke shops and bars in a period of just under three years (January 2011- November 2013). This set of bills will do two huge things for the state of Maine; in my opinion, one very good, and one very bad.
The good news is that in order to obtain Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, applicants must show proof of applying to at least three jobs beforehand. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is an aid program in the state of Maine that helps families who are temporarily unable to support their children. I think LePage’s proposal is one that would help Maine by cutting down on welfare abuse, especially since TANF provides cash benefits. The bill would ensure that this financial aid ends up in the right hands of those truly doing their best to find work and support their families by their own means. Unfortunately there are Mainers out there who wish to abuse these funds, but applying to three jobs (or more) is a concrete way for applicants to show dedication.
Of course, we must bear in mind that there are exceptions, and sometimes life circumstances could prevent an applicant from being able to apply for work. Perhaps a single mother who is struggling to support her young children would love to apply for a job, but she must travel to care for a sick relative and therefore won’t be able to commit to a work schedule at this time. While this is just one potential case, I do not think that someone in this specific situation should be denied assistance. With that being said, I think that applicants who see themselves as exceptions should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately, I understand that doing so would probably be unrealistic and too time consuming.
With that being said, here is the bad news – I must agree with gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud when it comes to this set of bills as a whole: “I understand the governor’s goal is to make sure TANF dollars are used in the best way, but he’s going about it all wrong by eliminating the Parents as Scholars program.” Parents as Scholars is an aid program that helps parents support their children while they attend school for either a 2- or 4-year degree. LePage does not see it as a significant benefit to the state and is hoping to eliminate it entirely, which many people – including legislators, those who have recieved aid from the program, and myself alike – do not agree with.
As I have found over the past few weeks, education and poverty are closely linked. A study conducted by Georgetown University has shown that the higher the level of education one attains, the higher his or her income will turn out to be. With these results, we can conclude that for a struggling parent desperately trying to support their family, a two or four year degree could very well make all the difference. It will present these parents with many more job opportunities and a chance to earn more. Furthermore, it would set a great example for the children of these families, and they will hopefully make attending college one of their own goals after seeing their parents’ success.
Overall, I think that LePage is right and I agree with his decision to focus in on welfare abuse. It has been proven that welfare abuse is a problem in Maine and both parties agree that something must be done to stop it. However, in reducing abuse we must be careful, because there are worthy applicants who, for circumstantial reasons, cannot apply for work before recieving aid. Additionally, we should not eradicate programs that encourage individuals to earn a higher education, because a degree could potentially make a world of difference to a struggling parent.