By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Not since Attila and his hordes of Huns thundered west from Eastern Europe has the world experienced what is now taking place in Lewiston. Daily, legions of maxed out former TANF clients are descending on our General Assistance Department.
Last Monday morning while riding toward Lewiston City Hall, I noticed two distinct groups forming lines at both the Park Street and the Pine Street entrances to City Hall.
The shorter line on Park Street was made up of what appeared to be “New Mainers.” (To those who follow this column weekly, I have purposely not used the word “refugee” so as not to offend those who find the word “hurtful” and wish to purge it from the English language).
The other group at the entrance on Pine Street consisted of native-born vagabonds. It was easily twice the size of the group waiting on Park Street. They were tanned, unkempt and covered with tattoos and body piercings, which collectively probably equaled the average yearly pay of most Lewiston workers.
There they stood, chain-smoking cigarettes, discarding them on the stairway and sidewalk outside the building. This discarding does have a positive note: it creates a chore that can be tackled by the General Assistance workfare crew.
While this may be amusing, it has consequences. This sudden influx is putting a physical and mental strain on our General Assistance staff. It also places a strain on city finances. It forces our General Assistance personnel to put a hold on a number of welfare cases, which are slated to make their way to a Grand Jury for indictment.
Lewiston Police Chief Michael Bussiere and his staff have developed an action plan that should help discourage and rid our city of the criminal element creeping up from crime-infested cities to our south, looking to set up shop.
Chief Bussiere has also assembled a group of seasoned detectives and patrol officers to address the rampant welfare fraud centered in our community. Their efforts have resulted in several indictments with many more to come in the near future.
These conditions in Lewiston did not happen overnight. They have been fostered by ineffective local political leaders, whose ears are in tune with public advocates, but are deaf to those on the front lines. Many of these advocates have a financial stake (their jobs) in any outcome dealing with their bailiwick.
The current policies have also been fostered and created by government administrators in Washington, D.C. and Augusta. Their blind allegiance to political correctness has created, for a lack of a better word, a mess. The public becomes angry and directs its anger towards those benefitting from these overly generous policies while forgetting the bigger culprit: the legislators who create these policies and are responsible for carrying them out.
I have sent a letter to Governor Paul LePage requesting that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services initiate an inquiry as to why those coming off five years of TANF are severely lacking the skills mandated and required by the program. What were those responsible for running the program doing all that time—or not doing?
Finally here are the numbers as of July 5 for those losing their 60 months of TANF and seeking General Assistance from Lewiston. Intakes have been done on 41 families, totaling 188 individuals. Thus far, 13 families have been given a total of $6,893 in assistance.
Three of the adults in these families were denied benefits due to fraud or noncompliance with a work requirement. The cases for the remainder of the 41 families are pending until requested information is supplied.
Remember in November.