LePage Weekly Address to Maine SNAP Recipients: “Get Outta The Hammock!”

Posted on September 22, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

AUDIO HERE: Maine Will Test Assets for Those Seeking Food Stamps

Maine Will Test Assets for Those Seeking Food Stamps

Hey, you lazy Maine black bears- Guvnah says it's time to get outta the hammock and get a job! Yeah, YOU there!

Hey, you lazy Maine black bears- Guvnah says it’s time to get outta the hammock and get a job! Yeah, YOU there!

    Our administration will start testing applicants for food stamps to determine if they have more than $5,000 in assets. It has just come to my attention that this is the federal law.

    Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

    The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program— which is called SNAP or food stamps—is for people who truly need a hand up.

    If an able-bodied person has over $5,000 in assets, such as ATVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles or jet skis, then they must divest of these items before asking the taxpayers for assistance.

    The asset test will apply only to households without children. It will apply to about 8,600 people on food stamps.

    They will be required to disclose whether their assets exceed $5,000 in value. This asset test is a provision of federal law that Maine has waived in recent years.

    Liberals have been spreading false information about what constitutes an asset. For the purpose of food stamps, assets do not include equity in a home or a household’s primary vehicle. They also do not include personal household items, furniture, TVs or washers and dryers.

    However, assets do include the balance of bank accounts, snowmobiles, boats, motorcycles, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles, recreational vehicles, campers and other expensive luxury possessions.

    Governor LePage addressing attendees at UMF town hall, 9/22/15

    Governor LePage addressing attendees at UMF town hall, 9/22/15

    The majority of Mainers agree that before someone gets taxpayer-funded welfare benefits, they should sell non-essential assets and use their savings.

    Hard-working Mainers should not come home to see snowmobiles, four wheelers or jet skis in the yards of those who are getting welfare.

    DHHS is constantly working to transform the welfare system from a culture of entitlement to one of self-reliance. Welfare should be a safety net, not a hammock to support expensive toys or non-essential assets.

    When Mainers see some people using welfare benefits to keep boats or motorcycles, it hurts the public perception of the program.

    It also hurts our ability to provide welfare resources for our most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the disabled and the mentally challenged.

    We have made moderate progress with welfare reform, but there is much more work to do. We have moved from the Number 1 welfare state in the country down to Number 3.

    We should be in the middle of the pack. That’s why we will keep working to make our welfare system an affordable safety net for truly needy Mainers.

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UPDATED: Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Handing out money won’t guide Mainers to economic success

Posted on July 23, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

UPDATE: Some days ya just can’t make this stuff up…

Now Paul LePage is claiming (online petition found on the LePage2014 website) HE is the one responsible for these changes in SNAP benefits, rather than acknowledging that LD 1343, the “Ticket to Work” bill sponsored by Speaker of the House Mark Eves passed into law in June (unsigned by LePage), was not his idea at all.

LD 1343 mandated the “partnership between DHHS and DOL has led to an increased effort to help Mainers who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Vocational assessments, connection to the Maine Career Centers and job banks and continued case management have led to a significant increase in the employment of TANF recipients” that LePage mentioned in his weekly address (see below).

And then there is the matter of some pesky news stories and press releases about LD 1343 as well as the fact that DHHS presented testimony in support of LD 1343 at the 5/3/13 public hearing.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Seth Berry during 7/24/14 Legislative Council meeting.

Speaker of the House Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Seth Berry during 7/24/14 Legislative Council meeting.

  • 6/14/13- “Maine House Unanimously Approves Speaker’s “Ticket-to-Work” bill”

      The Maine House on Friday unanimously approved a “Ticket to Work” bill that would reform Maine’s program for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

      The legislation, LD 1343, “An Act to Improve Work Readiness for Families facing Significant Barriers to Employment,” would ensure that TANF recipients received tools and training to enter the workforce and secure long-term employment. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services to provide a comprehensive assessment to identify education and other programs recipients need for job placement.

      The legislation also directs the Department to transition TANF recipients with severe disabilities and barriers to work from the state program and transition them to SSI/SSDI, reducing the cost to the state. A 2010 survey of TANF recipients conducted by the University of Maine found that 90 percent of recipients who were on the program for longer than five years faced a physical and mental health disability.

      The LePage administration testified in support of the measure during the public hearing on the bill. The Department of Health and Human Services is already in the process of selecting a contractor for the assessment services, which will be funded from federal block grant funds.

  • 7/2/13- “Ticket-to-work law designed to help welfare recipients get long-term employment”
      A bill meant to more quickly move families from welfare to sustainable long-term employment has become law, the Democratic Speaker of the House Mark Eves said Tuesday.

      The so-called, “Ticket-to-Work” law provides resources and assessment for those receiving state and federal financial aid and looks to determine what specific training or educational programs would help individuals gain sustainable employment.

      Eves, of North Berwick, authored the bill, but the measure will go into effect without Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s signature.

  • 1/3/14- “LePage: Maine faces $13 million in federal fines for ‘overly generous’ welfare system”
      According to LePage, the state could be liable for up to $13 million in federal fines for not meeting national TANF guidelines from 2007 through 2010, though that amount can be reduced if Maine takes quick action. At issue is that the state did not meet federal requirements for the number of TANF recipients who were working while receiving benefits.

      “We must fix this Maine law in order to comply with federal law,” said LePage in a prepared statement. “Maine is overly generous in allowing a wide variety of exemptions from the work requirement, which are not recommended by the federal government, making it impossible to meet federal standards.”

      House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said in a prepared statement Friday that Democrats are willing to work with LePage to improve anti-poverty programs, and already have. Last year, a “Ticket to Work” bill proposed by Eves, which helps Mainers access job training and other tools to secure long-term employment, went into law without LePage’s signature.

    ——————————————————

    DSC_0114As was noted in a press release, the changes proposed by Governor LePage and DHHS must go through the rule-making and public hearing process first. Despite that, DHHS will be sending out notification letters soon to almost 12,000 EBT food stamp recipients and intend to implement the 20 hr work or volunteer requirement effective October 1:

      Recipients of Food Supplement, more commonly known as Food Stamps, who are between ages 18 and 49, who have no dependents living with them, who are not pregnant and who are not disabled will have to meet the work participation requirement or the benefit will no longer be provided after three months.

      Nearly 12,000 people in the Food Supplement program are considered Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents’ by federal rules. Approximately $15 million a year in Food Supplemental benefits are provided to this group.

      In order to meet work requirements, those who fall into this category must work a minimum of 20 hours a week or volunteer for a community agency for a certain number of hours, depending upon the value of the current Food Supplement benefit received. Participation in the Maine Department of Labor’s (DOL) Competitive Skills Scholarship Program, which helps individuals gain skills that will lead to higher paying jobs, also fulfills the work requirement.

      “There are some valuable resources available to assist people in meeting the work requirement and ultimately, to transition from government dependence to personal independence,” said Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “We are committed to helping people use these resources, as well as providing training, to get people back to work as quickly as possible.”

    Audio link here

    Handing out money won’t guide Mainers to economic success

    I don’t believe that handing a check to someone will lift them out of poverty. I do believe in giving them the tools and the knowledge to help them succeed at their job.

    Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

    There are two ways to fight poverty. We can try to buy our way out of it, which makes liberals feel good. But doing that has grown our welfare system so much that we can no longer provide the appropriate level of care for Maine’s most vulnerable people.

    Or we can provide education and training to help guide a person toward a life of economic independence.

    If you hand someone money who hasn’t worked for it, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be spent frivolously. But if you offer support and guidance to help someone get employed, the check they get from their hard work is apt to be spent more wisely.

    DSC_0113Our Administration has transformed welfare, turning the focus from welfare to work. We have intensified efforts to ensure people have the ability and access to learn job skills.

    During the last six months, a partnership between DHHS and DOL has led to an increased effort to help Mainers who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Vocational assessments, connection to the Maine Career Centers and job banks and continued case management have led to a significant increase in the employment of TANF recipients. The Departments will take a similar approach to help Food Supplement recipients meet the work requirement by providing job-search training and support that focuses heavily on attaining employment.

    Effective October 1, the State will no longer seek a waiver from the federal government to eliminate the work requirement for Food Supplement benefits, more commonly known as food stamps. Instead, DHHS will abide by federal law that requires most able-bodied recipients work, provide volunteer services or be involved in a specialized work training program in order to receive food stamps. We expect this change will affect about 11,000 Mainers.

    However, this is not about cutting people off a program. Instead, this is common-sense reform that will put Mainers on a path to economic independence. The State has the resources, and it’s our job to let Mainers know that the help is available for them.

    Ultimately, we must prioritize our welfare system so we can protect our most needy. My administration has been focused on our children, elderly, disabled and mentally ill. These people are a priority, and we will continue to see that they are at the top of the list.

    Thank you for listening.

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  • LePage Rages at Pingree Over DHHS Mismanagement, SNAP/ USDA Kerfluffle

    Posted on September 28, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

    Pass the popcorn. Here is a portion of the latest press release from the Governor’s office:

      Rep. Pingree Uses Newspaper to Mislead Mainers, “Political Posturing at its Worst” says Governor LePage

      AUGUSTA – Today, Governor Paul LePage released the following statement regarding Representative Chellie Pingree’s attempt to attract media attention in light of the USDA flip-flopped decision regarding overpayments provided to Mainers through the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):

      “This is political posturing at its worst. Representative Pingree is, once again, using her intimate ties with the Maine Today Media to lie to Maine people. The error in question has no connection whatsoever to system malfunctions, and Pingree is siding with the Federal Government which has decided that during the height of the election campaign it will penalize Maine.

      Clearly, Representative Pingree has a history of empowering the heavy hand of the Federal Government over the people of Maine. I will not support Pingree’s demand that Maine taxpayers pay for this. She is out of line and so is the Federal Government. If the feds have an issue about how the State administers their federal program, they are welcome to take back the administration of their program.”

    Apparently this is the PPH opinion piece that has the Governor so ticked. A few quotes:

      It’s ironic to see an administration that harps on establishing a culture of responsibility trying to get others to pay for its mistake. But that’s what we have in Maine.

      In a letter to the state, the USDA said it would absorb about $2 million of the state’s error, but Maine would have to pick up the rest. DHHS is specifically instructed not to try to collect it from the participants.
      Rather than take steps to make sure that multimillion-dollar mistakes are not made again, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew announced Thursday that the state will appeal the decision to the federal government.

      That would be as much a waste of staff time and state money as the recent lawsuit attempting to force the federal government to make a quick decision on Maine’s request for a waiver allowing it to balance the budget by dropping nearly 30,000 people from the Medicaid program. The court dismissed the suit, as it should do with this one.

      If the LePage administration was serious about saving money, it would take a harder look at how it is spent by DHHS instead of just demonizing the poor. The appeal of this decision apparently shows that taking responsibility is for others where the administration is concerned.

    BREAKING story; will be updated as needed.

    *RELATED: (UPDATED) USDA To Mayhew, DHHS: $4.8M SNAP Overpayment Cannot Be Recouped From Affected 70k Maine Families

    Maine Democrats: “LePage Must Take Responsibility For $4.8M Compliance Error”; Furious Admin Plans To Appeal USDA Decision

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    Maine Democrats: “LePage Must Take Responsibility For $4.8M Compliance Error”; Furious Admin Plans to Appeal USDA Decision

    Posted on September 27, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

    Things are heating up in Augusta! From MPBN:

      DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew is furious at the Food and Nutrition Service and its demand for payment, and said the state will appeal. She said her office sought to recover the money from the recipients in the first place, because it was told to do so by the Food and Nutrition Service.

      “We will be appealing this decision, it is not only inconsistent with the practice of FNS, it is inconsistent with a letter we received from this same federal agency six months prior demanding that we collect the overpayment,” Mayhew said.

      Mayhew is upset at the assertion in the letter that the state has a systemic problem in how it handles the food stamp program. The very same letter, she said, praises the state’s administration of the program.

      “In the exact same letter, that they issued this week, they are commending the state of Maine for our system in administering this federal program and that we are eligible to receive bonus funding for how well we have administered the program,” she said.

    Earlier today, State Senator Justin Alfond and House Minority Leader Emily Cain responded to the news with a joint press release:

      “The Administration’s ongoing neglect of the law and mismanagement is costing Maine tax payers,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Senator Justin Alfond of Portland. “As seen here, the Administration’s arrogant approach is harmful to Maine families and now it’s costing all of us.”

      “We are relieved to hear that struggling families won’t have to pay the price for the LePage administration’s mismanagement,” said House Democratic Leader Emily Cain of Orono. “The administration must take responsibility for its mistakes, not shift costs to Maine people.”

      Alfond added, “This $4.8 million mistake is only what we know about today. Who can guess at what other ‘errors’ have yet to be uncovered.

    A fair question. Maine must file any appeal within ten days and then must file arguments with an appeals board set up to hear state appeals of rulings within 30 days. The appeals board then has another 30 days to issue a ruling, which can be appealed to the courts if necessary.

    *Related: (UPDATED) USDA To Mayhew, DHHS: $4.8M SNAP Overpayment Cannot Be Recouped From Affected 70k Maine Families

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    (UPDATED) USDA to Mayhew, DHHS: $4.8M SNAP Overpayment Cannot Be Recouped From Affected 70k Maine Families

    Posted on September 27, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

    Oh dear; here we go again! From a press release via Rep. Pingree’s office this morning:

      Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said today that federal officials have informed the Maine Department of Health and Human Services that 70,000 Maine families should not be required to repay approximately $80 in SNAP (food stamp) benefits that the state erroneously handed out over the course of several months.

      “We heard from dozens of food stamp beneficiaries who suddenly, out of the blue, were informed that they owed the state $80. For people struggling to put food on the table, that represents a big hit to their budget,” Pingree said. “These families didn’t do anything wrong, the overpayment was due to an administrative mistake, and there was no way they could have possibly known they were getting a few dollars more a month than they should have.

      The error, according to federal officials, came when state officials failed to follow federal guidelines in applying the “Standard Utility Allowance”— the estimate of a household’s utility costs used when calculating the need for food stamp benefits.

    Federal officials also expressly prohibited the state from trying to collect the overpayment from Maine SNAP beneficiaries. Maine law as reported in the Bangor Daily News, back in July, states that DHHS, which administers the program, was prohibited from reducing benefits until a formal rule change in the program was made.

    One wonders how many times the LePage administration, Mayhew and DHHS have messed up their numbers- it seems to happen on a fairly frequent basis. It’s hard to not agree with this opinion piece from last March, making the case for Mayhew’s firing- certainly she has not helped build a rebuttal case for retention.

    Suffice to say, we will see much more of this sort of mismanagement in the year to come, now that the waiting is over, SCOTUS has upheld Obamacare and Maine is now asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to force the Obama Administration to allow the state to reduce the amount it spends on Medicaid.

    The letter from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, addressed to Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, can be seen below.

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