DHHS hearing held on "work for welfare" plan

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — A public hearing on new welfare requirements was held on Wednesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services says it will require “able bodied adults” who get SNAP benefits — commonly known as food stamps — to get jobs or volunteer.

Commissioner Mary Mayhew says, “The volunteer aspect of this is important because of its commitment to the community, being engaged in civic activities, but also learning valuable job skills that will also serve them as they are looking for permanent employment.”

DHHS says there are about 12,000 non-disabled adults, with no dependents, who will be affected by the change. Single mothers, however, will not be affected.

Representatives from several social service agencies spoke against the change. They say it will cause people to turn to food pantries for help.

Melanie Mckean of the Preble Street Resource Center says it doesn’t have the staff to support hundreds more volunteers.

“We plan ahead and we have so many thousands of volunteers on a regular basis already,” said Mckean. “So while we can accommodate a few applications on a daily basis, not hundreds and certainly not thousands and we don’t want to turn people away.

DHHS will review the comments made at Wednesday’s hearing to determine if modifications need to be made to the food stamp requirements. The change goes into effect on October first.