Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Decades of research confirmed by real-time observations conclude that dependence on government welfare programs leads to a lifetime of poverty, generation after generation.
Last Friday, the Maine House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at helping to reverse that destructive trend in Maine. To become law, the bill must now be passed by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Paul LePage.
If enacted, the new law would require the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to assess the employment capabilities of those receiving cash welfare payments under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. DHHS would then help those beneficiaries train for the workplace and secure a job.
Although the Maine departments of Education and Labor are already working with DHHS to do just that, it’s a good idea to have even more political support to assist impoverished Maine families become more independent, self-sufficient and lead better lives.
In 1996, President Bill Clinton and the U.S. Congress passed historic welfare reform. Among other measures, the law gave states the flexibility to limit the number of years that TANF beneficiaries could receive cash payments.
States could also require welfare recipients to help themselves become self-reliant by measurable education and work force training. Some states were extremely successful in helping to improve the lives and futures of thousands of families trapped in welfare poverty.
Wisconsin, for example, was able to lift up nearly 50 percent of its welfare population to better and more dignified lives aided mostly by gainful employment.
Unfortunately, since the 1996 welfare reform wave started, Maine has continued down the unhealthy path of more, not less, government dependency. For example, TANF enrollees in Maine could receive lifetime benefits until 2011 when a five-year limit was imposed. In 2002, there were 202,000 Mainers enrolled in our huge Medicaid program. Today, there are 341,000 receiving these health care welfare benefits.
Last week’s bipartisan action by the Maine House to help TANF recipients become less dependent on cash assistance is a step in the right direction. Surprisingly, however, also last week the full Legislature voted to further expand the Medicaid program, called MaineCare, by 70,000 able-bodied and mostly single males younger than age 45.
Our elected officials should give a clear indication whether or not they will continue to lead our disadvantaged families down the hurtful road of more government dependency and poverty. Or, will state government truly reverse course and help more fellow Mainers lift themselves to reach more freedom, less poverty and better lives.Tweet
Bruce Poliquin is the former Maine State Treasurer and a 2012 Republican primary candidate for the United States Senate. He has 35 years of experience owning and managing businesses. Bruce is a proud third-generation Franco-American Mainer and Harvard University graduate. Visit BrucePoliquin.net for his most recent commentary and analysis on media outlets throughout the State about the important issues facing Maine families and their jobs.