Augusta- Governor Paul LePage unveiled a bill today, aimed at creating a tiered welfare system so that recipients are encouraged to strive for high employment goals without losing their benefits. He says the current system discourages welfare recipients from moving up in the workplace. His new bill would create a tier system that ensures a person their benefits while climbing up the employment ladder until they’re financially stable on their own.
“It’s about helping people understand that there’s a different path to success. And I say that with all humility because there’s no one else in this state that’s been as lucky as I have been getting out of poverty and so I think everybody should have that opportunity,” said Governor LePage.
The governor says his proposed measure will ween people off of welfare rather than cut them off abruptly. Current eligibility rules disregard–or don’t count– $108 of a person’s income plus half their remaining earnings. Under this proposed measure, those who work between 20 and 40 hours a week will see 100 percent of the total income disregarded for one month, 75 percent for the next six months, and 50 percent for each month thereafter. Those working 40 hours or more per week would have 100 percent disregarded for two months, but otherwise follow the same tiered schedule.
“So they have an opportunity to work, prove their worth to the company, hopefully during that time become important to the company, get raises, and indeed work their way off from a government dependency onto a system of being independent,” said Senator Michael Thibodeau ( R).
Even though the effort to curb the welfare cliff and ease the transition from welfare to work are represented by the republican party, democrats agree that this is an issue that needs work and they’re excited to see steps being done to fix it.
“Democrats in general have believed that having a cliff doesn’t really help people because they are restricted when they hit a certain limit, and when they are working hard they ought to be given the opportunity to continue to move forward in their work opportunities,” said Senator Anne Haskell (D).
In addition to the income disregard, the bill also proposes two other components. It will extend transportation assistance benefits from 12 months to 18 months, and will create family development accounts for families 200 percent below the poverty level by using $500,000 in TANF block grants. The hope is that this will promote financial literacy and healthy saving habits for families.