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Politics

Town Officials Speak Out Against LePage's Plan for Welfare Cuts

AUGUSTA, Maine - Town officials, faith leaders and anti-poverty advocates continued to protest Gov. Paul LePage's plan to cut welfare services during public hearings held Wednesday.

The Legislature's budget committee held hearings on sections of the budget that include axing state funds for General Assistance and food assistance for legal non-citizens.

All told, the proposals represent a $140 million cut to the Department of Health and Human Services. The savings would help fund the governor's plan to for a steep reduction in the state income tax.

But Orinda Fogler, who administers the General Assistance program for Bangor, says the cut would effectively shift the burden to fund a program that feeds and houses an estimated 10,000 Mainers statewide and more than 2,000 in Bangor.

"If that help isn't there on an emergency basis you're going to find people in homelessness," she said.

Fogler says 75 percent of General Assistance recipients received the assistance for six months or less, according to a review of five years of data. Another 88 percent received assistance for less than a year.

She said the statistics show that the program is working for families and individuals facing an emergency crisis, not for long-term support.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced data from the City of Bangor's General Assistance program. It has been corrected to note that 75 percent of General Assistance recipients received the assistance for six months or less.