Bill to prevent abuse of welfare dollars passes House after GOP amendment stiffens penalties for welfare fraud
For the past six years, House Republicans have been fighting to pass legislation that addresses the abuses within Maine’s welfare programs and this evening, the Maine House did just that with the passage of LD 1097 by a vote of 106 – 38 . The bill and a subsequent amendment put forward by Sen. Erik Brakey, would make the following changes with regard to the use of Temporary Assistance For Needy Families benefits (TANF):
- Prohibits the use of expenditures on items such as tobacco products, liquor and lottery tickets and several other similar items.
The amendment put forward by Sen. Eric Brakey (R) of Androscoggin County adds the following penalties for those found to have violated the provision above:
- First offense: 3 month disqualification of benefits and repayment misused benefits.
- Second offense: 12-month disqualification of benefits and repayment of misused benefits.
- Third and subsequent offenses: 24-month disqualification of benefits and repayment of misused benefits.
“For years House Republicans have been trying to put a stop welfare abuse and this bill is a big step in the right direction,” said Rep. Deb Sanderson (R) of Chelsea, ranking House Republican on the Health and Human Services Committee. “We have very limited resources and we need to be directing those resources to the people who need it most. We have said for years that the use of EBT cards to purchase alcohol, tobacco, tattoos and bail should be prohibited but until today we have not been able to get our Democrats colleagues to agree with us on appropriate penalties. This bill sends the message that Maine is finally taking this issue seriously and this abuse of taxpayer money will no longer be tolerated.”