MEJP Supports Smart Welfare Reform

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 We Can Change Course to Protect Maine Children and
Create Opportunity for Maine Families

Troubling trends for Maine children demand an immediate response.  Compared to the rest of the nation, the well-being of Maine children has taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

Here’s what we’ve seen over the last 5 years:

  • Growth in Extreme Poverty.  Maine has had the sharpest increase (50 percent) of any state in the country in the number of children living in extreme poverty (e.g. less than half the federal poverty line, or about $10,000 a year for a family of three).
  • Increasing Hunger.  While food insecurity has declined in the rest of the nation, Maine has moved in the wrong direction.  Maine currently has the third highest ranking in the United States for very low food security; and the highest rate of child food insecurity in New England.
  • Loss of Health Insurance.  Since passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, every state in the nation except Maine has seen an increase in the percentage of people with health insurance. Approximately 40,000 Mainers have lost their MaineCare coverage.  Maine is also the only state that has seen a statistically significant increase in the number of children without health insurance. 

LD 1268 fights these trends; it provides real opportunity for Maine families.  These dire trends demand immediate action. 

LD 1268 offers the following solutions to restore hope and opportunity for children and families:

  • Rejects TANF’s outdatedone-size-fits-all approach and replaces it with a new structure that targets services to give each family the tools they need to succeed.  This plan will provide customized tracks to ensure that families get the timely help they need to overcome crises and barriers and move more reliably toward economic security and independence.  
  • Connects parents to a job when they can’t find one on their own.  TANF participants must look for work, but when they can’t find a job through conventional means they would be given a chance to work in the paid labor market through a new transitional jobs program.  This gives them a chance to earn a paycheck as they gain valuable labor market experience.
  • Recognizes that real opportunity begins with education.  Gives parents who are churning in and out of insecure, low-paying jobs an opportunity to go back to school by increasing access to the Parents as Scholars Program (PaS) for parents with incomes below 150% of poverty level.  Maine educational institutions like the university, community colleges and adult education programs would help identify and enroll low-income parents in PaS.
  • Promotes housing stability for families at risk of homelessness.  LD 1268 would provide housing vouchers modeled on the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program to households with high housing costs exceeding 50% of their incomes.  This would reduce families’ housing burden to 30% of their income with Maine Housing paying the remainder directly to their landlord.  Secure housing enables families to access opportunity and improves children’s future prospects.  Families that benefit would see a reduction in their cash benefit but would continue to receive some cash to pay for their basic needs.  Rental assistance would continue to be available to working families with high housing costs and low wages once they leave TANF to ensure housing stability and strengthen the ability to maintain employment.
  • Holds the government accountable for the success of Maine's anti-poverty programs by establishing benchmarks and measuring outcomes. Data and evidence should drive policymaking, not rhetoric and politics.  This provision would establish benchmarks to ensure that programs are actually working to reduce poverty.  It would measure government’s success with meeting targets related to placing parents in jobs, increasing their wages, raising children out of poverty and reducing child hunger and homelessness.  A broadly representative citizen’s oversight group would be appointed through a bi-partisan process to ensure that benchmarks are appropriate and outcomes are rigorously and fairly evaluated.
Author Name: 
Robyn Merrill