Gov. LePage unveils bills reforming TANF and EBT card programs

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Since taking office Governor Paul LePage has been vocal about wanting to reform the state's welfare system, and on Monday he unveiled four bills he says will help with that.

Specifically focused on the state's TANF and EBT, or electronic benefit transfer cards.

Governor LePage says he wants to be clear, he will help anyone who needs help, but he says there have been too many people for far too long taking advantage of the system and now it's time to change the way it's run.

These four bills won't fix everything, he says, but they will help curb some of the problems they've been seeing with people taking advantage of their benefits.

One bill would require job-ready applicants for benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program -- or TANF -- to prove they've applied to at least 3 jobs before they'd be eligible for those benefits.

The second would prevent TANF benefits from being used on tobacco, alcohol, gambling sales, or for posting bail.

The third bill would remove state exemptions that currently allow TANF recipients to get around the federal work requirement -basically it would ask recipients to try to find a job.

The last bill would restrict the use of EBT cards outside of the state of Maine, something Commissioner Mary Mayhew says would help limit the amount of people who live out of state from taking advantage of Maine's benefits.

House Speaker Mark Eves agrees no benefits should be spent on alcohol or cigarettes and says Democrats support some reform, but the kind that will help get Mainers back to work. He says these requirements only restrict those trying to better themselves.

Maine Equal Justice Partners agree, adding that there is no proof EBT and TANF benefits are being spent inappropriately in a widespread case.

One thing the administration can work on in the coming weeks without approval from the legislation is getting photo identification on EBT cards. Governor LePage says that should help curb the trading of cards for other goods.


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