Lewiston Mayor Bob Macdonald wrote a letter on July 10 to Governor Paul LePage, asking why individuals who have reached their five-year limit of receiving TANF benefits do not have adequate skills to find jobs.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) was created by the 1996 federal welfare reform bill during the Clinton Administration. Federally funded TANF benefits were supposed to be limited to five years and were designed to “promote work, responsibility and self-sufficiency.” Maine Democrats chose to ignore the federal limit and allow individuals to receive state-funded TANF benefits for however long they wanted it.
The purpose of TANF is to provide “short-term assistance with basic needs for families with children whose lives have been disrupted by divorce, illness, unemployment or similar challenges.” TANF provides cash assistance, funding for childcare, “transportation benefits,” “employment support” and other benefits.
The Republican legislature ended Maine’s unlimited period for receiving TANF. Starting on June 1, Maine began to adhere to the federal five-year limit. Some of those coming off TANF are now applying for General Assistance in local communities.
Those receiving TANF benefits are expected to participate in the “Additional Support for People in Retraining and Employment”program. The ASPIRE program is an education, training and work program that is supposed to help them transition off TANF.
Macdonald wants to know why many individuals, after receiving TANF for at least five years and participating in ASPIRE, are still not prepared for the workforce. He is calling for an investigation of the state’s ASPIRE program. His letter to the Governor is below:
Dear Governor LePage:
As the Mayor of Lewiston, I am committed advocate for what is best for this community. In that regard, I am writing to request that an inquiry be initiated regarding those state employees whose responsibilities were to ensure that ASPIRE program was effectively carried out.
Many individuals who have been terminated from the program after reaching their 60-month limit are arriving at Lewiston’s Social Services Department (General Assistance) severely lacking in skills that were mandated and required by the ASPIRE program.
An example of this is some know only a few words in English and are unable to communicate with our staff. Other individuals are severely lacking employment skills.
Since your administration took office in Augusta, many needed changes have occurred. However, with the strict and correct enforcement of the TANF rules, Lewiston is on the verge of an unknown spike in our Social Services (General Assistance) budget. This spike will impact many of our already stressed property owners struggling with their current burden.
With various skills mandated and required by the ASPIRE Program, it is unsettling that we are repeatedly observing this lack of skills by many coming to our Social Services Department. As such, as Mayor of the City of Lewiston, I am therefore requesting that an investigation be conducted to determine if the state employees charged with facilitating the ASPIRE Program were indeed fulfilling their mandated responsibilities.
By law, Lewiston must provide support for these individuals. However, if any state employee violated the trust of the clients they served, I would also request that they be held accountable for the financial burden that has been thrust upon Lewiston property taxpayers.
Robert E. Macdonald