Oh, those cruel, Maine Republicans

I’m guessing that somebody at the New York Times got bored waiting for Hillary’s YouTube video to drop and figured they’d better find a story about nasty, cruel Republicans crushing the poor and disadvantages before the filing deadline hit. A convenient target popped up in the person of Maine Governor Paul LePage who was in the process of breaking the backs of the disadvantaged with his giant, evil boots. (Hat tip for this story to our friend Jim Geraghty at The Campaign Spot.) The story begins with a heartrending tale of people hanging out at a food pantry waiting to pick up some groceries. We are informed in the most serious of tones that the pantry was originally supposed to be a source of “supplementary” food for the financially disadvantaged, but for many of these folks it was now virtually their only way to fend off starvation. The reason? Governor LePage has cut off their food stamps.

That change is part of an adjustment being made by states that will strip food stamp benefits from a million childless, able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on low-income Americans.

At its core is a basic question: As the economy improves, should states continue waivers that were enacted during the recession to allow healthy adults who are not working to get food stamps longer than the law’s time limit? Maine is one of the states that say no.

The headlines almost write themselves. Evil Maine Republicans Just Say No To Starving Children.

But, as usual, if you bother to read down the bottom of the article there are some other interesting details. For example, who does the three month time limit for food stamps apply to? It’s the “Abawds.” (Who are actually not an indigenous tribe.)

Last year, the administration of Gov. Paul R. LePage, a Republican, decided to reimpose a three-month limit (out of every three-year period) on food stamps for a group often known as Abawds — able-bodied adults without minor dependents — unless they work 20 hours per week, take state job-training courses or volunteer for about six hours per week. Maine, like other states, makes some exceptions.

“You’ve got to incentivize employment, create goals and create time limits on these welfare programs,” said Mary Mayhew, the commissioner of health and human services in Maine. She said the measure was in line with Mr. LePage’s efforts to reform welfare.

The number of Abawds receiving food stamps in Maine has dropped nearly 80 percent since the rule kicked in, to 2,530 from about 12,000. This time limit is an old one, written into the 1996 federal welfare law. But, during the recession, most states took advantage of a provision that allows them to waive it when unemployment is persistently high, which meant poor adults could stay on the program regardless of their work status.

So these cruel cuts – which still allow you to collect food stamps for three months with absolutely no questions asked – can only apply to people with no physical impediment preventing them from working. They also can’t have any children. And they can’t be older than 49. If they fall into any of those categories there is no cessation of benefits.

But even then there’s a loophole. Even if you fit all three categories, you can take any part time job for 20 hours a week and re-qualify. Can’t find a part time job? You can sign up for a free state job-training course. And if even that is too much trouble for you, you can take your healthy body out for a walk and volunteer for six hours per week. Six hours. For someone with no job and no children to look after. And your benefits are immediately restored.

Boy howdy, that’s some real hardship there, isn’t it? Assuming you are out there in good faith looking for work, six hours of volunteering still leaves you 34 hours per week to apply for jobs during normal working hours. That Paul LePage is certainly in the same category with Sauron sitting in his tower in Mordor, eh?