Crack Down on Welfare Cheats in Lewiston
I got an e-mail today from David Sorenson or the Maine House Republicans that I found somewhat encouraging about a crackdown on people who abuse the welfare system we fund. Before I begin, let me assure you that if someone is in true need and following the rules I have no problem with helping them out until they get back on their feet.
Here are excerpts from his e-mail:
No, welfare fraud is not just anecdotal; and yes, there are lots of savings to be found in local government budgets. Proof positive: 84 cases of fraud and abuse, $162,000 in property taxes that don’t need to be increased.
The story goes like this.
Mayor Robert Macdonald announced a city effort to cut down on welfare fraud and waste Tuesday that includes kicking 84 people off the city's General Assistance lists, 50 of them accused of fraud.
Police Chief Mike Bussiere said the police were pursuing fraud charges for 12 of the people cut from the city's welfare rolls. He declined to name any of those 12, but said they could face charges for a Class E misdemeanor and jail terms of up to six months in jail, as well as fines, if convicted.
Charron said 34 of the people cut had neglected administrative requirements. They had not completed their required job training programs, had quit a job or were fired. They were not accused of fraud, she said.
Of the 50 accused of fraud, Charron said most had lied about applying for work. General assistance recipients must fill out a form detailing where they applied for jobs.
"They need to actually leave applications so when we call, they can confirm it," Charron said. "What they were doing was just writing names down and they were not actually applying for work.
Charron said the city does occasionally check those forms.
"We try to do it as best we can, but we had not done it for some time because we have been so busy," Charron said. "But we took a bunch and decided to check."
"But what happens, their assistance is disqualified for 120 days," Charron said. "On the 121st day, they can come back, and they don't have to make restitution or anything. But they can be charged. What we are going to do now in Lewiston is, if you commit fraud, you will be charged. It's not going to be as easy as just coming back."