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Maine to enforce work requirement for food stamp recipients

AUGUSTA (WGME) -- It's a federal law that hasn't been enforced in Maine since the recession. But Governor LePage and the Department of Health and Human Services will soon start enforcing work requirement for able-bodied adults who collectively get $15-million a year in food stamps. More than 200,000 people in Maine currently receive food stamps to help feed themselves or their families.

But 12,000 of those recipients are, in Governor LePage's words, able-bodied adults who refuse to work. The governor plans to start enforcing the work requirement. No work, no food stamps. Katie Luke, a mother of two young children, says "You shouldn't get a free handout. There are plenty of people in this country that actually need help. And I'm one of those people. I receive help, but I also work."

During the recession, the feds gave Maine and other states waivers from the work requirement for food stamps. That waiver expires this Fall. DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew is making plans to enforce the federal law. She says "We're trying to break the generational poverty and the dependency on these programs by supporting people with meaningful pathways that help them get jobs and support themselves and their families."

Anyone between the ages of 18 and 49, who isn't disabled or pregnant and who doesn't have dependent children living with them, will be required to either work 20 hours a week, volunteer for a community agency, or participate in a job training or education program. But democratic state representative Peggy Rotundo says "There are people who are struggling to find work. And it's going to hurt them."

Rotundo says the governor is just trying to score points with voters. She says "This is about politics and about the governor's interest in detracting people's attention away from a really poor job record." Commissioner Mayhew disagrees. She says "It's always difficult for me that helping people get a job would ever be considered political. The governor is committed to helping people out of poverty."

The workforce requirement for food stamps eligibility is scheduled to take effect on October first. DHHS will start sending out notices in the coming weeks to those 12,000 food stamp recipients who aren't currently meeting this requirement.