In reading that Maine will remove 6,500 adults from the food stamp program Jan. 1 (“About 6,500 childless adults in Maine to lose food stamps as of Jan. 1,” Dec. 19), I simultaneously agree and disagree with Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew’s thinking.

I agree that not working, especially over time, can be debilitating and self-perpetuating, but her solution of “throwing them in the water so they can learn to swim” is cruel and walks away from her department’s responsibilities. I don’t disagree that having some work requirement can be beneficial. Re-establishing the experience of work can be empowering, but the devil is in the details.

Mayhew cheerleads the “resources and opportunities,” but Amy Gallant of Preble Street correctly reminds us that there are many barriers to access. And there is no clear evidence that these resources actually lead to jobs that pay enough to live on.

I propose that Commissioner Mayhew take three courses of action:

 Demand that the Legislature give funding to support enough service providers to help the most challenged individually to get on the path to work. It fulfills Mayhew’s mission, and the income taxes the newly re-employed pay, combined with their diminished need for public assistance, will reduce the incremental cost.

 Demand that the governor help the chronically unemployed by supporting a bond for jobs in the public sector, particularly to fix our crumbling and underfunded infrastructure. It is a win-win for the state.

 When the former Bucksport millworkers who will have been eligible for this benefit reach their 90-day limit and still can’t find work, she and the governor should personally sign the letter telling them why they are no longer worthy of support.

It’s not that hard to identify a problem. It takes courage to respond with solutions that might actually work.

Mac McCabe

Portland