Lawmakers consider several welfare bills

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Hearings were held at the State House Monday on a number of bills that would make changes to Maine’s social services programs, particularly Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

There were at least 10 bills related to TANF on the public hearing docket and they covered a broad spectrum of proposals.

Here are some highlights:
LD 33, from Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, would decrease the lifetime limit on receiving TANF from five years to three years, the same as Gov. Paul LePage’s two-year budget proposal. Based on January enrollment, that would cut 1,500 of 7,800 children from the program. When LePage took office, there were more than 25,000 in the program.

LD 338, along with some other bills, seeks to increase the TANF housing allowance from $200 to $300 and make the program available to two-parent families under the same criteria as apply to single-parent families. That proposal would cost $24.9 million over the next two years, according to the Legislature’s fiscal office.

There are a number of bills that propose various methods of increasing work participation requirements in the TANF program or improving associated work training programs.
LD 1052 would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to require TANF applicants to complete a written screening to determine their likelihood of illegal drug or substance use. Based on the results, the department could then order a drug test. LD 1075 proposes a similar system.

LD 1418 would prohibit the purchase of retail marijuana products using the electronic benefits transfer system, which is how TANF and food stamps recipients receive their benefits.

TANF and other social service programs have long been a focus for the Republican governor. He and the Republican-led Legislature passed the five-year TANF limit that took effect in 2012 and has led to sharply reduced rolls.

However, Democrats have controlled at least one legislative chamber since 2013, so they’ve been able to play many of LePage’s welfare proposals to a tie. That will likely happen this year in budget negotiations, where the real heat around welfare should be.

Sen. Davis reminds students of approaching Legislative scholarship deadline

State Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, reminds constituents that the deadline for applying for the Maine Legislative Memorial Scholarship is fast approaching.

The Maine Legislative Memorial Scholarship Fund was created by the Maine Legislature and staff to annually recognize one student from each county who is currently enrolled or is planning to pursue a post-secondary degree or attend technical school in Maine. This scholarship is available for full or part-time students.

A total of 16 scholarships are awarded – a $1,000 scholarship to one student from each Maine county. The eligible recipient must be a Maine resident.

“One of our local students from Sebec has won this scholarship two out of the last three years.” Sen. Davis said. “This is a great opportunity to help students pay for college, but the deadline is rapidly approaching, so I would advise all who are interested to apply as soon as possible.”

Among other criteria, awards are made on the basis of academic excellence demonstrated by the content of the applicant’s transcript and GPA; contributions to community and employment; and financial need demonstrated by the applicant’s Student Aid Report (SAR)

The deadline for the Maine Legislative Memorial Scholarship is May 1. For more information, please visit the Maine Legislative Memorial Scholarship Fund website.

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