October 28, 2013

Another View: Harmon column did not reflect the reality of state assistance

Making people look for jobs that may not exist doesn’t make the state’s safety net programs more efficient.

By state Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland

Recently, M.D. Harmon praised proposed legislation to “reform” Temporary Assistance for Needy Families that would require all people seeking temporary assistance to prove they have applied for three jobs (“Kudos to Maine’s Republican leaders on push for welfare reform,” Oct. 11).

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State Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, is assistant majority leader of the Maine Senate.

This thinking reflects the false assumptions that many able-to-work people would rather let the state take care of them, and that TANF is a generous program.

As the name states, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is for families. It’s there to make sure kids don’t go hungry, and that they have a place to live. In fact, 97 percent of people who receive TANF are women and children, 40 percent have a disability and another 20 percent have a child with a disability.

These families are struggling to make ends meet, and many are in crisis. One out of every four women applying for TANF is involved in a domestic violence situation. People in this situation are not able to think about applying for jobs when they are timing their escape from their abusers.

TANF is only temporary – it’s there to help people get back on their feet. On average, people who receive TANF assistance do so for less than two years, and receive $150 per month.

We agree: The best anti-poverty program is a job, and TANF already has work effort or training requirements. The problem is, it’s hard to find a job in Maine right now. Our economy isn’t recovering at the same pace as the rest of the country. Merely requiring people to apply for jobs will not result in more people working – nor will it take away the need to put food on the table.

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