Maine shows how to cut Food Stamp fraud

The fastest growing category in the fast growing Food Stamp program – now the second most expensive welfare program of the feds – is able-bodied adults without dependents (ABWDs).  These are people fully capable of supporting themselves, but who choose to (and are allowed to) force others to pay for some or all of their food.  Throughout all of human history, until food stamps, the necessity of eating has been the primary driver of the effort necessary to get out of bed and perform tasks less appealing than leisure.  But no longer.  (See, for example, this.)

Except in Maine, under Governor Paul LePage.  Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield report at the Daily Signal:

Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, recently established work requirements on recipients who are without dependents and able-bodied. In Maine, all able-bodied adults without dependents in the food stamp program are now required to take a job, participate in training, or perform community service.

Job openings for lower-skill workers are abundant in Maine, and for those ABAWD recipients who cannot find immediate employment, Maine offers both training and community service slots. But despite vigorous outreach efforts by the government to encourage participation, most childless adult recipients in Maine refused to participate in training or even to perform community service for six hours per week. When ABAWD recipients refused to participate, their food stamp benefits ceased.

In the first three months after Maine’s work policy went into effect, its caseload of able-bodied adults without dependents plummeted by 80 percent, falling from 13,332 recipients in Dec. 2014 to 2,678 in March 2015.

As the authors note, there are other benefits:

The Maine work requirement also reduces fraud. The most common type of fraud in welfare involves “off the books” employment. In food stamps, as in other welfare programs, benefits go down as earnings rise.

But “off the books” employment is rarely reported to the welfare office; hiding earnings enables a recipient to “double-dip,” getting full welfare benefits he is ineligible to receive while simultaneously receiving earnings from an unreported job.

A work requirement substantially reduces welfare fraud because insisting a recipient be in the welfare office periodically interferes with holding a hidden job. Recipients cannot be in two places at once. Faced with a work requirement, many recipients with hidden jobs simply leave the rolls. No doubt, a significant part of the rapid caseload decline in Maine involves flushing fraudulent double-dippers out of the welfare system.

Government data show that many adults without children on food stamps use their own funds counter-productively. Over half of able-bodied adults without dependents regularly smoke tobacco; those who smoke consume on average 19 packs of cigarettes per month at an estimated monthly cost of $111. These individuals rely on the taxpayers to pay for their food while they spend their own money on cigarettes.

The federal government pays 90% of the costs of food stamps.  This support should be linked to work requirements being put in place by the states.

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