Maine has already seen a drastic reduction in the number of able-bodied adults with no children that are collecting food stamps from the state thanks to new rules put in place by Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration.
Before January 1, there were roughly 12,000 adults in the program, but after work and volunteer requirements were put in place late last year, the number of participants in the program dropped to 2,680 as of March.
Since October, healthy adults without children have been required to work at least 20 hours a week, volunteer or participate in a work-training program to continue receiving benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program after three months. It's the result of the administration's decision to no longer seek a waiver for the federal requirement, which it had used since 2008. […]
Maine was one of at least eight states that declined to use the federal waiver this year out of the 37 states that had been eligible, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. The Center on Budget and Policy priorities, a left-leaning think-tank in Washington D.C., estimated in January that about 1 million people nationwide would be removed from the program as a result of those changes.
A census report released this month shows that Maine had one of the highest participation rates in the food stamp program in 2013 at 18 percent. Only Oregon and Mississippi higher rates that year, according to the report.
The goal of the new requirements is to encourage people to find work, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew told the Associated Press.
"If you're on these programs it means you are living in poverty and so the more that we can help incentivize people on that pathway to employment and self-sufficiency the better off they're going to be," she said.
While critics say there aren’t enough jobs or volunteer positions available to meet the requirements, a spokesman for the DHHS pointed out to the AP that recipients only need to volunteer 24 hours per month in order to comply with the requirements; the administration also believes there are enough opportunities available throughout the state to do so.