AUGUSTA, Maine - Citizens would monitor the success and progress of the state-run welfare-to-work program under a democratic lawmaker's bill.

Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Nathan Libby is sponsoring a bill that would create an independent citizens oversight committee.

The committee would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to collect data about topics like employment, income levels, child poverty and food insecurity.

The bill also would require the department to set benchmarks to measure the program's success.

AUGUSTA, Maine  - The state's efforts to rewrite Maine's welfare-to-work rules are drawing critique from a legal aid group.

Maine Equal Justice Partners said some of the rules proposed by the state Department of Health and Human Services conflict with state and federal law. The group is urging the state to continue allowing recipients to reject jobs that would mean less cash for their families.

By Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine has missed a chance to completely avoid up to $12 million in federal penalties for failing to meet welfare-to-work standards in the past.

Such penalties would mean lost federal dollars next year for Maine's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which has $155.5 million in unspent federal funds. Maine must make up the gap with state funds, but could use creative accounting to avoid dipping into the general fund.