AUGUSTA – Rep. Victoria Morales, D-South Portland, introduced a bill on April 9, 2021, that would shed light on how many Maine workers employed by large companies rely on public benefits like MaineCare and SNAP.
LD 1233 would require the state Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services to gather data regarding the number of Maine workers employed by businesses that have 50 or more employees and who receive public benefits. The departments would report their findings to the Legislature each year.
“We know from the data we have that the majority of people relying on certain types of assistance are working, and that most of them are working for large corporations. But even though they are working for large, profitable companies, they need public benefits just to get by,” said Morales. “This bill seeks to understand this data, continue to collect it and use it to better inform our policies so we can best serve the people of Maine.”
Public benefits include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which was formerly known as food stamps; MaineCare; General Assistance; and rental assistance programs, including Section 8 vouchers.
“So many people who receive assistance from programs like SNAP or MaineCare work for a living. They only receive these benefits because their jobs don’t pay well enough. As the saying goes, ‘we can’t improve what we don’t measure’ and we can’t make good policy if we don’t have the data to back it up,” said Rep. Scott Cuddy, D-Winterport, a member of the Labor and Housing Committee, which held the public hearing on the measure on Friday.
A 2020 report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that millions of Americans rely on social safety net programs to meet basic needs. Most worked full-time and for private sector employers, such as restaurants and department stores.
The committee will hold a work session on the bill in the coming weeks. At that time, committee members will have an opportunity to offer amendments and vote on a recommendation to the full Legislature.
Morales is serving her second term in the Maine House. She represents part of South Portland and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.