October 3, 2013

Bill would require job search by Maine welfare seekers

Sponsored by House Minority Leader Fredette, the legislation aims to cut welfare spending.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
State House Bureau

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Fredette’s proposal aligns with a Republican push to overhaul the state’s welfare system and furthers a party narrative that has proven popular with a public that remains skeptical about welfare recipients’ efforts to find work.

Fredette echoed that sentiment during prepared remarks made at the State House on Wednesday. He said Mainers are willing to help those in need, but “many people believe that all too often, there are those who treat a helping hand as a way of life, generation after generation, to the point where hard work is discouraged and personal accountability is forgotten.”

He added, “I believe Maine taxpayers are feeling that they are being taken advantage of. You see it when you talk to them on the street, going door to door, and we see it when we gather the results of our constituent surveys.”

Judith Levine, a sociologist professor at Temple University, said upfront work policies are popular because states can trim their welfare rolls, and politically expedient because they “tap into long-held public notions of deservingness” that have existed throughout the domestic welfare policy debate.

“Throughout that history, the idea of the ‘deserving poor’ has been tied largely to being employed,” Levine said. “Pre-approval work search policies create one more hurdle in a series of bureaucratic hurdles that needy families face in trying to obtain TANF benefits.”

Levine noted that the barriers are effective, citing data that showed unemployment had gone up by 88 percent nationally during the recession, but the temporary assistance caseload rose by 16 percent.

This story was updated to correct the number of TANF cases.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: smistler@pressherald.comTwitter: @stevemistler
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