Testimony: Work Requirements for Welfare Benefits


Testimony in Support of LD 778, “An Act Regarding Work Requirements for Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents Under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program,” and LD 784, “An Act to Establish Welfare Work Requirements for Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents”

Senator Tipping, Representative Roeder, and the distinguished members of the Committee on Labor and Housing, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on LD 778 and LD 784.

With history and common sense as a guide, Maine lawmakers can craft a safety net system that truly helps those who cannot help themselves, spurring individual independence while responsibly stewarding the people’s hard-earned tax dollars. Too often, our welfare programs lock Mainers into a cycle of dependence, instead of empowerment. Is this what people really need right now?

A literature review conducted by Maine Policy Institute in 2020 found several strong relationships in the data between unemployment and various health problems, both physical and mental. 

Middle-aged individuals have poorer mental health when they do not work. Those who are unemployed are more likely to experience elevated levels of depression, anxiety, and mental deterioration. In addition to increasing the risk of suicide, prolonged unemployment worsens depression.  The negative mental health effects that arise from unemployment in young adulthood can last for decades, if not a lifetime. Not only does unemployment lead to depression, research shows that employment lowers levels of depression.

Between February 2022 and February 2023, New Hampshire added more than 9,000 workers to its civilian workforce while Maine lost more than 6,000. Restoring proper work requirements for welfare recipients is critical to rebuilding our state’s workforce, as these requirements have done before. Lawmakers can ensure that Mainers are contributing to society and working to pull themselves out of poverty with these simple reforms.

One national study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) examined 20 “work for welfare” programs and found that all groups who participated had increased earnings three years after joining the program. In our own state, we have seen that those who exit welfare programs and find a job experience increases in income. When former Governor Paul LePage required Mainers receiving certain forms of benefits to meet work requirements, participants in the program saw a 114 percent increase in wages after one year.

Please deem LD 778 and LD 784 “Ought To Pass” and look to economic opportunity, rather than government, to pull people out of poverty. Only one of these methods has actually worked in the long run. Thank you for your time and consideration.