By Robert Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
An alcoholic can be defined as a person addicted to alcohol. Alcoholism is a terrible affliction.
It is very difficult to overcome the addiction to alcohol, especially if the alcoholic lives with an “enabler.” An enabler often protects the alcoholic, calling in sick when the alcoholic is too hung over to go to work or buying the daily bottle for the alcoholic.
Welfare is also very addictive. It is easy to stay home or party with friends, rather than go to work and put up with “Da Man” all day. The longer a person is out of work, the harder it is to return to the workforce again. Welfare becomes sweeter and sweeter by the month.
The state of Maine has a very generous welfare program. It attracts people from all over these United States and, in fact, the world. People are encouraged to taste the sweet nectar of “money for nothing.” Until recently, there was no limit on so-called “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families,” better known as “TANF.”
As the state continues to struggle with overspending, the end has come to unlimited TANF. In May of this year, 3,023 families will have exceeded the five-year lifetime limit and will no longer receive TANF benefits. The Lewiston region will be the area most impacted: 337 families in Lewiston will be receiving notices and 109 in Auburn.
If you have been on TANF for over five years, the welfare that you have been accustomed to is certainly not “temporary.” Longtime TANF recipients will be faced with several options. One is to find a job. Another is to relocate to another state and start that state’s welfare clock.
Finally, the third option is to visit the city or town offices and ask for General Assistance.
Americans moved in great numbers from the Midwest to California to find work during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, but don’t look for a similar out-migration of maxed-out TANF recipients in Lewiston. There is just too much other welfare available in this service-center city we call Lewiston.
Sadly, the property tax payer should get ready to be even more generous than ever before. Trips to the welfare office will likely have an impact on the property tax bill you receive in the mail later this year.
There is an oft-repeated story about a local welfare recipient showing up at the check-out line of a local supermarket, attempting to move through without paying for the items piled high in his shopping cart. When confronted and asked for payment, the poor chap exclaimed in a loud voice, “City pay! City pay!”
Well, up until now, the truth was that the state, federal government and local government did, in fact, pay. After May of this year, when 606 of the first wave of longtime TANF beneficiaries show up at General Assistance, the only persons paying will be you.