Governor Paul LePage of Maine is working tirelessly to screw over the poor people of his state. At the beginning of 2015, Maine changed its rules for its Supplemental Nutrition Program, a.k.a. food stamp program, which kicked thousands of needy Mainers off of it. Their program is also just a flat-out mess. Now, the federal government is stepping in and saying that, if Maine doesn’t straighten up and fly right, they may face sanctions, such as losing federal money. Worse, they may have to look for alternatives, including having another state pick up the slack.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put Maine on notice, since the number of people classified as “food insecure” has been steadily climbing since LePage took over. Nationwide, that number is decreasing. The problem isn’t just a slew of new rules that pushed thousands of Maine residents out of the program. It’s also that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services is badly mismanaged, according to the Bangor Daily News:
The department is in free fall and has decided to openly ignore both state and federal law, perhaps to force a confrontation with federal authorities.
Not only is the state failing to review applications as required, it’s also struggling to produce data, is nonresponsive to oversight and has failed to improve its performance after multiple contacts from the USDA. A corrective action plan created by the state in March has not improved the department’s poor performance.
Eligible low-income families are not receiving the help they need and more people are going hungry.
If these problems are not corrected in a timely manner, then one potential solution is to have another state take over. Yes, another state, with its own problems, could be asked to take over for Maine if Maine fails to do what needs to be done to bring its food stamp program back into compliance with federal guidelines.
That’s pretty sick. It’s even sicker that LePage and HHS administrator Mary Mayhew talk about having fewer people on the program, as though they’re succeeding in finding good and lasting ways to address poverty and hunger. One of the “solutions” they’ve worked out is an “asset test.” Households without children, but with assets of more than $5000 (including non-cash assets like snowmobiles, and cash assets like savings accounts), would not be eligible for food stamps if this were to take effect.
Maine has also sought to do silly things like exclude soda and candy from food stamp eligibility. Other states have tried to do this, and the federal government has roundly slapped them down for it. LePage has pushed hard for restricting candy and soda purchases because of how those items are dealt with under the state’s tax code, but it’s really just Republican code for, “If you’re poor enough to need food stamps, you damn well better look and act the part.”
If Maine can’t take care of its poor people, then someone else has to step in and do it. Republicans don’t seem to be able to do anything right.