(UPDATED) Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Despite Opposition, Maine is Putting Photos on All EBT Cards

Posted on November 21, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Updated post from July to reflect the following letter from the USDA to Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew dated 11/20/14:

As the Portland Press Herald is reporting, Maine has 45 days to respond to the letter, else risk losing 50% of the funding that helps cover SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) administrative costs.

    “Since Maine has represented to (the USDA) that the state’s EBT photo program is optional, the state must affirmatively demonstrate that SNAP clients have a choice whether to have a photo on their EBT card and their choice does not adversely affect their SNAP eligibility,” Kurt Messner, administrator for the USDA’s Northeast Region, wrote in the letter dated Thursday.

    Messner went on to say that “there are significant civil rights concerns about the state’s practice of taking photos of all non-applicant household members.” The practice, according to Messner, may represent a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    “Any individual who applies for SNAP on behalf of eligible household members must be able to access the program without fear,” Messner wrote.

Newly minted DHHS spokesman David Sorensen responded that “that the photo ID measure is a policy, not a rule or law” and that Commissioner Mayhew “plans to review some of the USDA allegations, including the claim that recipients are given the impression that a photo is mandatory.”

Mayhew is quoted:

    “We remain 100 percent committed to placing photos on EBT cards. While we are still reviewing the letter, it is imperative that Maine is able to implement common-sense reforms to ensure the integrity of our welfare system, preserving resources for the truly needy while protecting taxpayers.”

ACLU of Maine and Maine Equal Justice Partners have also weighed in:

    “Maine has a real hunger problem and it’s very serious,” said Chris Hastedt, public policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners. “(SNAP) is being administered in a way that the state is creating more hunger problems and greater barriers for those who are hungry. The state has to tell people upfront that they have a choice about the photo ID.”

    “Requiring photo ID on EBT cards is incredibly costly, it’s ineffective and the Department of Agriculture has said it’s illegal,” Zachary Heiden, the ACLU of Maine’s legal director, said in a written statement. “If the administration wants to do what’s best for the state, it will stop punishing people who are struggling in this tough economy.”

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Originally posted July 9.

A few weeks ago, DHHS officials provided case workers the following instructions regarding the photo ID EBT card changes the LePage administration was making.

DHHS also provided those same case workers a script of prepared answers to use when the inevitable questions would arise:

————————–

AUDIO LINK HERE

Two men from South Thomaston were arrested last week for trafficking bath salts. Drug enforcement agents seized three handguns, $25,000 in cash and—yes, you guessed it—seven EBT cards.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

Gov. Paul LePage discusses his EBT/ TANF reform bills LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842 at a press conference.

Gov. Paul LePage discusses his EBT/ TANF reform bills LDs 1815, 1820, 1822 and 1842 at a press conference.

The drug dealer admitted that the seven EBT cards were given to him as payment for the drugs. Bath salts contain very dangerous synthetic stimulants. They result in overdoses, hallucinations and even death. It’s bad enough that some people will pay for these drugs, but it is even worse when taxpayer dollars are used to pay for them.

This drug bust, along with several others, shows EBT cards are being used to support criminal behavior invading our state.

I had a plan that added 14 agents to fight drug crime, but liberal politicians rejected it. Democrats couldn’t even say yes, when I found the money for a compromise package with fewer drug agents, judges, prosecutors and supported an additional $750,000 for substance abuse treatment. Instead, liberal politicians swept the bill under the rug killing the compromise in the middle of the night.

Despite all evidence, including major drug busts day after day, Democrats refuse to address drug crime in our State.

These same liberal politicians also believe that a certain level of EBT fraud is acceptable. I don’t think any level of EBT fraud is acceptable, and I know you don’t either. Using an EBT card to buy drugs means a needy child, elderly or disabled person is not getting their benefits.

That’s why we are moving ahead with our plan to put photos on all EBT cards. It will not stop all EBT fraud, but it will make it easier to identify who is abusing these cards. It puts those who would abuse EBT cards on notice that the state is holding them accountable.

To test the plan to put photos on EBT cards, the Department of Health and Human Services ran a pilot project in its Bangor office. DHHS studied the mistakes other states made to ensure they did it right. The pilot program ran for two months and was very successful.

We are now implementing the program statewide. The new card not only features a photo, but it also clearly states that misuse of the EBT card is considered a crime. Photos on the new EBT cards will help DHHS verify the identity of the card holder. The photos will be helpful in cases where EBT cards are sold for cash or drugs.

They will also help determine who is the rightful owner of a card when multiple EBT cards are found on an individual.

There are about 223,000 EBT cards in Maine. These cards are loaded with benefits such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other welfare benefits. Over the last 12 months, more than $383 million in benefits have been put on Maine EBT cards.

Even if just one percent is wasted or abused, that’s almost 4 million dollars. Wasting 4 million dollars of taxpayer money may be okay to liberals in Maine and Washington, D.C., but it’s not okay with me.

While I am your Governor, I won’t tolerate one dollar of waste, fraud or abuse. I believe it’s government’s responsibility to ensure your taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. That’s why my administration will keep moving forward to protect taxpayer dollars and the benefits that are truly needed by our most vulnerable citizens.

Thank you for listening.

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Hey Dave- Thanks bunches for illustrating again why Maine Dems won BIG in November. Now, Shush!

Posted on March 2, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Awhile ago, House GOP hatchet guy, er, communications director David Sorensen shared on Twitter a photo taken of yesterday’s Democratic leadership media availability press conference:

Here again is the entire press conference for context:

And who can forget Dave’s work during the last election cycle? He did such a great job in getting Tom Martin re-elected, huh?

Senator Lachowicz, who is seeing constituents today, sends her love, btw…

orc

Thanks bunches, guy!

Well, such is what happens when one captures a moment of time and tries to make a statement out of it, with none of those pesky supporting facts and such.
Certainly we on the left could do the same!

Let’s give it a try.

Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau lulls House Minority Leader Rep. Ken Fredette to sleep with a soothing fairy tale told to Maine media... shush everyone, now!

Senate Minority Leader Mike Thibodeau lulls House Minority Leader Rep. Ken Fredette with a soothing fairy tale told to Maine media… shush, now!

See how this works? It is cheap political theater at best; mean-spirited nonsense at worst. It does nothing to work on the serious issues at hand; it doesn’t tell the truth of what is being said or done.

To quote the Governor from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2009/2013, “It’s bullshit.”

Goodness knows, Sorensen is quite skilled at shaping conversations even against members of his own party!

Oh- such good times, good times. From last May:


    Two individuals have been identified as participating in this attempt to sow convention confusion. One is Maine House Majority Office Policy Aide David Sorensen, who reportedly nominated the fake Paul slate from the floor. Before and during the convention, Sorensen mocked the Paul people, who he termed “Ronulans,” on Twitter and implied that they believe conspiracy theories about the United Nations and black helicopters (which, to be fair, many of them do).

    paulPaul supporters fault Sorensen both for engaging in a dirty trick and for taking precious convention time with his actions and making the entire event take longer, possibly costing the state party extra money in rental fees for the Civic Center.

    “A lot of Republicans are making a fuss out of this, at least in Androscoggin County,” said Chris Dixon, a convention delegate who witnessed some of Sorensen’s actions and has written about them on Twitter and on a Ron Paul forum. “A bunch of us really want clarification on it, because here’s someone who’s directly employed by the party who’s doing a deliberate sabotage effort. He’s causing disarray for whatever reason and putting the Party on the hook for $20,000.”

    Sorensen, reached for comment, repeatedly and pointedly refused to discuss any aspect of the convention, including the actions of which he is accused.

Here is a clip, as to show the full context and not just a snapshot- it clearly discusses and illustrates the fraud mentioned above:

Memories… ah, back to the present. Another tweet sent out by Dave from yesterday:

But here’s the reality that the GOP doesn’t want Mainers to know or remember: The Democrats when in charge of the Legislature HAVE been paying down the hospital debt that occurred under the McKernan and King administrations, have been making solid payments for years and have not let up once on honoring their commitment!

From October 2006, this article penned by former Speakers of the House John Richardson and Hannah Pingree:

    For three administrations – two under an independent and one under a Republican

    – state government refused to pay hospitals back payments that were due to them. That was bad for local hospitals, all of which are non-profit and many of which are small community-supported organizations and the life center of health care for their regions.

    It was also bad for patients, who rely on hospitals’ continued coverage of Medicaid and Medicare patients. And the trickle-down impact of unpaid debts to hospitals goes even further, affecting the premiums we all pay for health insurance as hospitals have to increase charges to cover unpaid debts and charity care.

    Gov. John Baldacci inherited 11 years of unpaid debts on his first day in office. With a structural gap of $1.2 billion, demands for increased school funding, and many other legitimate and pressing needs competing for scant dollars, Gov. Baldacci might have been forgiven if he had let the unpaid debts go unpaid a little longer.

    Instead of taking the easy route, the governor showed his typical unrelenting commitment to fiscal responsibility by putting the state on a path to pay off these debts. As of this week, Maine has paid hospitals for all outstanding debts owed from 1992 to 2004. We have moved from 11 years in arrears to less than two years.

And what have the Democrats done since then? Oh, not much- wait a sec…

Via Maine House Democrats comes this information released to media yesterday:

    MYTH: Democrats don’t care about paying hospitals

    FACT: Maine has been steadily and increasingly paying down hospital debt for the past decade. Democrats strongly believe paying back the hospitals is a priority. That’s why we’ve been doing it for over a decade.

    · Maine has already paid back more than $3.7 billion to hospitals over the past decade.

    · From fiscal year 2005-2010, the combined state and federal settlement payments to hospitals totaled $742 million, according to the nonpartisan Office of Fiscal and Program Review. Under the LePage Administration, in fiscal year 2011-2013, hospitals will recoup $274.9 million in state and federal dollars.

    · Moreover, in an effort to prevent the debt cycle, Democrats led the change to a “pay as you go” system. The law changing the system was passed in 2009 before LePage took office. The change was fully implemented in 2010.

    o The 124th Legislature in PL 2009, Ch. 213 moved to abandon the Prospective Interim Payment (PIP) system of reimbursing hospitals which requires a settling up of bills after the fact with reimbursements based upon DRGs (Diagnostic Related Groupings) and APCs (Ambulatory Procedure Codes). APCs cover outpatient services provided by hospitals, DRGs are related to inpatient services. Both apply only to noncritical access hospitals. Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) continue to be reimbursed on at 107% of the Medicare rate for services. Title 22, § 3174 LL and MM contain the results of PL 2009, Ch. 213.

    o Move to DRGs

    o Move to APCs

settlesettle2

Hush now, Dave… Ken is sleeping!

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