So-called “reform” has taken Maine in the wrong direction

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So-called “welfare reform” proposals of recent years have greatly reduced the number of people receiving aid, while increasing the number of families living in deep poverty.

Over the last 5 years:

  • More than half of families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), including more than 16,000 children, have been cut from the program;
  • Tens of thousands of people have lost food assistance; and
  • More than 30,000 Mainers have lost health care as a result of cuts to MaineCare.

While the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has not tracked what has happened to these families and individuals since they lost assistance, here is what we do know.

Over the last 5 years:

  • The percent of Maine children living in extreme poverty has increased by 50%;
  • Food insecurity is dropping in the rest of the nation, but it has increased by more than 10% in Maine meaning more people in Maine are going hungry;
  • Maine now has the highest rate of food insecurity in New England, and the 3rd highest rate of very low food security in the nation;
  • The percent of uninsured children in Maine has risen by more than 30%  in just the last 2 years;
  • Maine is the only state in the nation that has not increased the percentage of people with health insurance coverage since the passage of Obamacare in 2010;
  • Maine’s rate of people with health insurance has dropped from 10th in the nation to 24th.

Earlier this winter, the Maine Republican Party attempted to put a referendum on the November 2016 ballot that included a wide range of policies that would do more of the same - simply knock more people off of benefits with no real solutions to address the underlying problems that families face. The good news is that the backers of this referendum were not able to collect enough signatures from voters to get it onto the 2016 ballot. The bad news is that we haven’t seen the last of these irresponsible and dangerous proposals; its backers have said they intend to place the referendum on the 2017 ballot.