Maine finally took a bold step forward in welfare reform and it’s paying huge dividends.
Last year Maine passed a measure that would require recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, to complete a certain number of work, volunteer, or job-training hours before being eligible for assistance.
Main Governor Paul LaPage passed the measure last year and the resulting drop in food-stamp enrollees has been dramatic.
At the close of 2014 approximately 12,000 individuals were enrolled in the state assistance program. Keep in mind that these individuals are adults who aren’t disabled and who don’t have children at home and who are claiming the food-stamp benefits because of a lack of financial resources.
After forcing these individuals to either work part-time for twenty hours each week, enroll in a vocational program, or volunteer for a minimum of twenty-four hours per month, the numbers showed a significant drop from 12,000 enrolls to just over 2,500.
Republicans in the state are calling it a major victory, while Democrats are infuriated and are calling for special measures to roll back some of the strict requirements.
However, even if the requirements lose some of their strictness, once an individual is removed from the Maine food-stamp program they cannot receive benefits from the program for three years.
This is a true victory for welfare reform, and, while opponents are continuing to push back, we can hope that other states will notice the effectiveness of Maine’s program.
Meanwhile, for all the naysayers who say that this program is unfairly targeting those in rural or extremely poor areas, let’s remind ourselves who this program is really affecting.
These individuals who were benefiting from the food-stamp law and who now can’t are able-bodied, capable adults. These aren’t people with physical or mental disabilities or raising growing children. These are regular Joes who don’t seem to want to get a job.
And while I will say that getting a job can be harder than it sounds, Maine’s program solves that difficulty beautifully. If individuals can’t get and hold a part-time job of twenty hours per week, they can qualify by enrolling in training program. If that doesn’t get them a job, they can still qualify by volunteering.
Do you see what Maine did there? They’re making people exhaust their possibilities for employment before giving them a handout. Finally a state government has hit upon a great way to reward people for trying to get jobs and to punish those who sit around feeding off the taxes of the rest of the country.
Now the struggle remains for the rest of the country to work to adopt similarly effective laws.