Governor LePage EBT/ TANF Reform Bills LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 & 1842 Get Public Hearing (VIDEOS)

Posted on March 27, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

DSC_0044One day after Governor LePage, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and others held a press conference in the governor’s cabinet room to roll out multiple EBT/ TANF reform measures, the bills were presented to the Legislature’s HHS Committee at a public hearing. After hearing the bills presented and discussed by supporters and opponents at a public hearing, the committee met again for a work session on Wednesday.

Ultimately the committee passed LD 1822, as amended, which would prohibit the use of electronic benefit transaction (EBT) cards in smoke shops, expanding upon current law that prohibits their use at liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos, sanction individuals who misuse the card, notify recipients of temporary assistance that funds should not be used to purchase tobacco or alcohol or used to post bail, require recipients to sign an understanding of where EBT cards could be used and send similar notification to merchants.

They also passed LD 1820 (amended as a resolve), which would direct the Department of Health and Human Services fraud unit to work with the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute the use of Maine-issued EBT cards out of state by non-residents and report back to the committee on its efforts.

HHS Chairs Sen. Craven and Rep. Farnsworth question DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew during public hearing. Also pictured, Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville)

HHS Chairs Sen. Craven and Rep. Farnsworth question DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew during public hearing. Also pictured, Sen. Colleen Lachowicz (D-Waterville)

LDs 1815 and 1842 were rejected by the majority of committee members, with harsh criticism leveled at LePage by the HHS Committee chairs.

    Sen. Margaret Craven of Lewiston: “Governor LePage’s proposals will not help people get a job and get back on their feet. They will simply make it harder for struggling families to survive. The right route to reform is through education and training. We certainly should not be passing the buck to our towns and shirking on our responsibility.”

    Rep. Dick Farnsworth of Portland: “If there is fraud, no matter how small, it should be investigated and prosecuted, not politicized. We are directing the Governor to investigate that fraud and prosecute it, if it is real. He should stop using it to pull the rug out from struggling families, especially at a time when Maine has one of the worst job growth records in the nation. Governor LePage has built his election campaigns on cynically stereotyping poor Mainers under the guise of welfare reform. The reality is that his policies have only led to a rise in homelessness and an increase in child hunger.”

Some statements from opponents are below.

    Sara Gagné-Holmes, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners: “Maine families turn to TANF when they are in crisis — domestic violence, illness or disability or other family traumas. More than 90 percent have work experience. What they often lack is a path to sustainable employment — a job that enables them to support their children and meet their basic needs. These are dead-end proposals that will lock people into low wage jobs without benefits or hope for advancement. Policy should be driven by facts and the actual circumstances of these families. These bills fail that test. They are driven by anecdote and misperception and do nothing to address the biggest problem that these families face, which is poverty. In fact, they create new barriers to job training and education.”

    Danna Hayes, director of public policy, Maine Women’s Lobby: “These proposals target a program focused on helping mothers and children with very low income. We support efforts to help parents obtain employment, but these jobs need to provide enough so that women are able to support their families and leave poverty behind. Simply requiring people to apply for three jobs regardless of the jobs available and the family’s circumstances will not help people get ahead. Instead, this job search requirement will close the door on education and training opportunities parents can access through the TANF program.”

    Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance: “Preparing Maine for a prosperous future begins with recognizing that our youngest residents must get what they need today to become the adults who will strengthen our communities and build our economy. At a time when child poverty is on the rise, lawmakers should be focused on policies that reverse this troubling trend. Not only do these proposals distract us from working to address this growing problem, they also unfairly stigmatize low-income families and drive children deeper into poverty.”

Here are (in order of speakers) clips from the public hearing on Tuesday.

House Minority Leader Rep. Ken Fredette introduces Gov. LePage bill LD 1815 to HHS Committee

Rep. Allen Nadeau (R-Ft Kent) presents LD 1820 to HHS

LD 1820 co-sponsor Rep. Terry Hayes (D-Buckfield) speaks in support of bill

Rep. Shari MacDonald (R-OOB) presents LD 1822 to HHS Committee

LD 1822 Cosponsor Terry Hayes speaks in support of bill

Rep. James Gillway (R-Searsport), town manager of Searsport, offers LD 1842 to HHS Committee

LePage administration senior health policy advisor Holly Lusk speaks in support of bills

HHS Committee asks questions of LePage administration’s Holly Lusk

MDOL Director of Legislative Affairs Susan Wasserott speaks in support of LePage EBT/ TANF bills

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew testifies in support of LePage 4 EBT/ TANF bills (pt 1)

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew answers HHS Cmte ?s on LePage 4 EBT/ TANF bills (pt 2)

Attorney Heidi Hart, former TANF recipient, testifies against bills

Heidi Hart, former TANF recipient, answers HHS Committee questions

All bills will now go before the Legislature.

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One Response to “Governor LePage EBT/ TANF Reform Bills LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 & 1842 Get Public Hearing (VIDEOS)”

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Governor LePage’s office sent out a statement regarding the HHS Committee votes. Here is part of the press release:

Governor Paul R. LePage released a statement today about the party-line votes to kill his welfare reform bills, which would have required applicants to look for work and would have prevented fraud and abuse of cash benefits from EBT cards.

“It is incomprehensible that Democrats on the Health and Human Services Committee would vote to reject these common-sense proposals,” said Governor LePage. “I am the first one in line to help someone in need, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of and neither do hard-working Mainers. These liberal politicians would rather see welfare cash benefits, which are provided by struggling Maine taxpayers, go out of state than to keep that money in Maine.”

“They prefer to automatically hand out welfare benefits to anyone who applies, instead of simply asking them to look for work first. This is outrageous. Mainers don’t mind providing a hand up, but they expect applicants to try to get a job before asking the taxpayers for welfare.”

The Health and Human Services Committee voted strictly along party lines, on both LD 1815 and LD 1820, 7-5.


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