A Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) spokesman tells the Associated Press that 12,000 non-disabled adults were in Maine’s SNAP program before Jan. 1 - a number that dropped to 2,680 by the end of March.
More than 9,000 Maine residents have been removed from the state's food stamp program since Republican Gov. Paul LePage's administration began enforcing work and volunteer requirements.
The new rules prevent adults who are not disabled and do not have dependents from receiving food stamps for more than three months - unless they work at least 20 hours a week, participate in a work-training program or meet volunteering requirements.
DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said the goal of the requirements is to encourage people to find work.
"If you're on these programs it means you are living in poverty and so the more that we can help incentive people on that pathway to employment and self-sufficiency the better off they're going to be," Mayhew told the Associated Press.
In Maine, once someone loses their benefits, they cannot regain assistance for three years.
Maine was one of at least eight states that declined to use the federal waiver this year out of the 37 states that had been eligible, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service.
State Rep. Scott Hamann (D –South Portland) has introduced a bill that would direct the administration to seek a waiver for certain counties with high unemployment or a lack of jobs.
The measure may not gain support from LePage's administration. HHS spokesperson David Sorensen says, recipients only need to volunteer for 24 hours a month to comply with the requirements and the administration believes there are enough opportunities even in the most economically depressed regions.
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Associated Press reports were used in this piece.