The idea that people are poor because of personal failings and laziness is insulting. People receiving public support say it is demoralizing. Most Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients, who are required to work, do work. And they want financial independence.

We say that welfare should go only to the truly needy and that we need to “protect taxpayers.” Protect taxpayers from what? People on welfare pay taxes through sales tax, rent, gas taxes.

Non-poor people benefit in other ways. When we go to a big discount store, the cheap prices are a benefit of employees working at minimum or low wage.

For sure, cheap imports make a big difference, but we’d be paying more if all the workers were paid a living wage. Seventy-five percent of Maine’s Medicaid spending goes to long-term care and the disabled, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts,so where do we cut? And who are the “truly needy”?

According to MIT, a living wage for one parent and one child in Portland is $47,000 per year to cover rent, food, transportation, child care, school supplies, taxes, clothing and health care.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates a living wage for a parent and child in Portland at $54,247. Portland is expensive. (But even in low-cost rural Alabama, you’d need an annual income of $39,654.) Portland’s minimum wage is $10.68 or $21,790 per year. If you are earning less than half of a living wage, doesn’t that make you truly needy?

The idea that poor people get thousands of dollars from various programs assumes they are eligible and the programs are fully funded. How do you rent affordable housing if there aren’t any places to rent?

Why not raise eligibility limits for all welfare programs, fund them, expand Medicaid eligibility, expand job-seeking programs and move people off the financial insecurity they face every single day.

JoAnn Myers