Gov. Paul LePage announced Wednesday that Maine will no longer seek a federal waiver that allows some able-bodied adults to receive food stamps without working or volunteering.

“We must continue to do all that we can to eliminate generational poverty and get people back to work,” LePage said in a statement announcing the change. “We must protect our limited resources for those who are truly in need and who are doing all they can to be self-sufficient.”

According to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, able-bodied recipients are defined as adults between the ages of 18 and 49 who have no dependents, are not pregnant and are not disabled. DHHS has identified 12,000 current recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program who fit that definition. They account for about $15 million per year in benefits.

Currently, Maine receives a waiver from the federal government that allows food stamp recipients to receive benefits without meeting work requirements. Maine has used the waiver for the last six years largely because of an anemic job market.

Maine’s unemployment rate reached a high of 9.7 percent in early 2010 but has dropped to 5.1 percent as of June. The rate is higher in some rural areas of the state.

Food stamps is a federally funded program that is administered by the states. Each state has some discretion over how the program is administered and who should be deemed eligible.

The LePage administration’s proposal to no longer seek a waiver still needs to go through a rule-making process that includes a public hearing, but the change would take effect on Oct. 1, according to DHHS.

Maine has one of the highest rates of food stamp recipients in the country. Last month, Maine administered $26.6 million in food stamps to 122,807 households comprising 231,308 individuals. That means the 12,000 people identified by the LePage administration represent about 5 percent of all recipients.

Wednesday’s announcement by LePage is the latest in a long series of policy initiatives by his administration to reform social service programs in Maine. The governor has ramped up his efforts in the last months in an effort to seize control of the issue during his re-election campaign.

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell


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