Hearing Wednesday on changes to food stamp requirements

AUGUSTA, Maine – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services held a hearing on Wednesday on new food stamp requirements.

Last month the state announced that it will require most able-bodied recipients to work, provide volunteer services or be involved in a specialized work training program in order to receive food stamps for longer than three months.

DHHS said that nearly 12,000 people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are considered able-bodied adults without dependents by federal rules, and approximately $15 million a year in food supplemental benefits are provided to this group.

“Maine, like many states, pursued a waiver during the recession to waive this work-volunteer requirement. We will no longer be pursing this waiver,” said DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

Several agencies expressed their concerns about the changes at the hearing.

“Our concern is not only for our organization, but for all of the organizations across the state that would have to participate in the program process and if it’s sustainable and manageable, and it will be so much harder for these organizations and groups, especially smaller ones,” said Preble Street Development Coordinator Melanie McKean.

DHHS said it will notify those who fall under the new requirements, and the hope is the changes will be a catalyst for improving the economy and social stability.

“The intent is to support people out of poverty, to create pathways around education, training, to lead them to jobs. There are 7,000 jobs available in the job bank today. We believe that the focus of this department should be to help people support themselves and their families and to break the cycle of dependency,” said Mayhew.

The changes are expected to go into effect on Oct. 1, after the proposal goes through the rule-making and public hearing process.