Right-Wing GOP Governor Succeeds in Making More People Go Hungry
Maine's Gov. Paul LePage can now claim the proud policy achievement of making more needy people go hungry.
David Farmer reports in Daily Bangor News that during LePage's administration, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which administers SNAP benefits, has been so badly mismanaged it risks losing federal funding. The USDA also admonished the organization for failing to process applications in a timely way.
“The State’s chronically poor performance in timeliness is in direct conflict with the application processing statutory and regulatory provisions meant to protect low-income household’s right to receive nutrition assistance benefits in a timely manner," the USDA said in the letter.
The Daily News reports that 40,000 people were dropped from the program just between 2014 and 2015, though hunger is on the rise in the state.
LePage has been fixated on cutting food stamp benefits throughout his administration. He pushed for a junk food ban for people using food stamps, a policy critics say accomplishes little beyond shaming the poor and goes against federal rules. The governor brought back work requirements for adults without children and limited their food stamp allotment to three months, despite the state's still sizable unemployment rate. He's demanded that food stamp debit cards start displaying photos, a requirement that will shred more public money, the Daily News notes. And in an especially creative stretch of conservative paranoia about the secretly luxurious lives of the poor, he introduced an "asset test" that would disqualify Maine residents who have $5,000 in assets, like snowmobiles or campers.
“What next? Grandma can’t buy groceries until she sells her engagement ring?" Rep. Drew Gattine fumed, when the so-called asset test was proposed in September. "They need to focus on growing economic opportunity and moving people into sustainable employment rather than adding a layer of bureaucracy to government that does nothing to save taxpayer dollars or help people in real need.”
"If the department’s goal is to make more people hungry, the strategy is working. Under LePage and Mayhew, more people are hungry and the department isn’t doing its job," Farmer notes.