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Enough is Enough: Limit on TANF may increase General Assistance

By Robert Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

An alcoholic can be defined as a person addicted to alcohol. Alcoholism is a terrible affliction.

It is very difficult to overcome the addiction to alcohol, especially if the alcoholic lives with an “enabler.” An enabler often protects the alcoholic, calling in sick when the alcoholic is too hung over to go to work or buying the daily bottle for the alcoholic.

Welfare is also very addictive. It is easy to stay home or party with friends, rather than go to work and put up with “Da Man” all day. The longer a person is out of work, the harder it is to return to the workforce again. Welfare becomes sweeter and sweeter by the month.

The state of Maine has a very generous welfare program. It attracts people from all over these United States and, in fact, the world. People are encouraged to taste the sweet nectar of “money for nothing.” Until recently, there was no limit on so-called “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families,” better known as “TANF.”

As the state continues to struggle with overspending, the end has come to unlimited TANF. In May of this year, 3,023 families will have exceeded the five-year lifetime limit and will no longer receive TANF benefits. The Lewiston region will be the area most impacted: 337 families in Lewiston will be receiving notices and 109 in Auburn.

If you have been on TANF for over five years, the welfare that you have been accustomed to is certainly not “temporary.” Longtime TANF recipients will be faced with several options. One is to find a job. Another is to relocate to another state and start that state’s welfare clock.

Finally, the third option is to visit the city or town offices and ask for General Assistance.

Americans moved in great numbers from the Midwest to California to find work during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, but don’t look for a similar out-migration of maxed-out TANF recipients in Lewiston. There is just too much other welfare available in this service-center city we call Lewiston.

Sadly, the property tax payer should get ready to be even more generous than ever before. Trips to the welfare office will likely have an impact on the property tax bill you receive in the mail later this year.

There is an oft-repeated story about a local welfare recipient showing up at the check-out line of a local supermarket, attempting to move through without paying for the items piled high in his shopping cart. When confronted and asked for payment, the poor chap exclaimed in a loud voice, “City pay! City pay!”

Well, up until now, the truth was that the state, federal government and local government did, in fact, pay. After May of this year, when 606 of the first wave of longtime TANF beneficiaries show up at General Assistance, the only persons paying will be you.


3 Responses to “Enough is Enough: Limit on TANF may increase General Assistance”

  • Paul Carignan:

    Dear Mr. Macdonald;
    I moved to Lewiston when I was 3 years old with my family. In the years since I have been witness to many mayors, and many challenges; the economy, downtown revitalization, crime, and overcoming hate-in all cases mayors had to make decisions to face these challenges. One constant that existed is that the presiding mayors all took actions that would keep the community together.
    My father served as the Dean of Bates College for over thirty years. In his tenure he worked to help keep the Bates Community together. He also tried to help dissolve the belief that the “Batesies” were rich kids that disrespected the “townies”, by developing mentor programs and programs that provided opportunities to area young people, and older members of the community, as well. Later in his time at Bates my Dad worked as a member of the Lewiston City Council. He may not have had many motions accepted, but it is my feeling that everyone involved with Lewiston city government would attest that his main priority was to provide opportunities for those in need. He never tried to create divisiveness, among citizens of Lewiston.
    Your column “Enough is Enough…” in the February 1 edition of the Twin City Times does not, in any sense, speak to the elements of unity, encouragement, and does project a sense of leadership that should be a primary goal of the mayor. Despite not living in Lewiston any longer, I still like to remain current on the goings-on in the community I called my home. Comments that have been made by you rival the “ He can kiss my a___” made by our current Governor for the “Reasons to be ashamed of political leaders “ category. I appreciate you speaking from the heart and being real. I would only hope that you pause and consider the response that your words may generate as an authority figure and a role model in the community.


    Paul Carignan

  • Mike Lachance:

    In response to the Mayor’s column, and Paul’s comment I will add this. Sometimes the bitter truth is a hard pill to swallow. It takes courage, honesty and complete assertiveness to state the facts in the matter of Lewiston’s ongoing problems. The Mayor has done just that and exhibited something that hasn’t dared been excercised in a decade.

    While many will undoubtedly feel uncomfortable with these facts, and likely their abrupt presentation, the Mayor is to be applauded if for nothing else, bringing these facts out into the open for public discussion.

    The real problem isnt shining a bright light on these issues, but HOW we tackle the solutions and move Lewiston out of the “Welfare City” category and into the “Economic Boomtown” category. It won’t be easy, but shooting the messenger got Lewiston NOWHERE a decade ago and scared the fortitude out of EVERY subsequent mayor since then… until now.

    Like him or not, Mayor Macdonald has done nothing more than state the economic challenges we now face. We as citizens, along with the City Council (who are the ones that will actually do SOMETHING or do NOTHING) must now tackle these problems.

    I do believe Mayor Macdonald has considered the response his statements will generate. It takes guts. A city, like an alcoholic, must sometimes admit there is a problem before overcoming the problem. For the last decade the City has been denying the problem exists. No longer.

    Now let’s get this city back on track and overcome the economic problems we are saddled with.

  • Alyce:

    Really, Mayor MacDonald? You’re going to pull out the old “City Pay!” chestnut/urban myth as some kind of “evidence” for your meaningless and xenophobic fingerpointing? So sad that you are given the position of mouthpiece for the city of Lewiston.

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