Cash and food stamps for non-citizens? Maine Legislature is considering it

On the left, Rep. Drew Gattine, the primary sponsor of the bill to provide cash benefits, food stamps and Medicaid to non-citizens. On the right, Senate Majority Leader Nate Libby (D – Lewiston), a cosponsor of the bill. Photos courtesy Maine Legislature website.

AUGUSTA – The Maine Legislature is considering a bill that would provide cash benefits, SNAP (often called food stamps) and Medicaid benefits to non-citizens.

The proposal is sponsored by a group of Democrat lawmakers, including three from Portland and Westbrook as well as Senate Democratic Majority Nate Libby from Lewiston who is joined by one State Representative from Lewiston as well.

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Welfare benefits for non-citizens were rolled back by Republicans under Paul LePage and have been a point of contention in the Maine Legislature ever since, largely due to insistence by Democrat lawmakers that funding cash benefits, food stamps and Medicaid for non-citizens should be a higher priority in Maine’s state budget.

Republicans, in response, point to waiting lists for disabled Mainers waiting for services, the number of nursing homes that have closed across Maine largely due to low reimbursement rates, and a need to provide better services to veterans as priorities that should be put ahead of handing out taxpayer funded welfare benefits to non-citizens.

The proposal, L.D. 1317, is titled “An Act To Restore Services To Help Certain Noncitizens Meet Their Basic Needs” is sponsored by Rep. Drew Gattine (D – Westbrook) and has nine Democrat cosponsors.

It would restore SNAP benefits that were repealed as of July 1, 2011 in Paul LePage’s first year as Governor.

Under the LePage welfare reform, non-citizens who were elderly, disabled, victims of domestic violence, who had other hardships, or were unemployed but had obtained proper work documentation were allowed to continue receiving SNAP.

The proposal from Rep. Gattine would remove those restrictions on eligibility, opening the door for a huge increase in eligibility for non-citizens.

In the cash benefits portion of the proposal, a non-citizen would not need to be present legally in the United States, although those here legally would qualify. Instead it would allow non-citizens who have submitted a request for immigration relief, or those who verify they are taking ‘reasonable steps’ to pursue immigration relief.

It is unclear from the language in the proposed law what ‘reasonable steps’ to pursue immigration relief would mean, but the bill clearly would provide Maine taxpayer funded benefits to non-citizens who have not yet filed the appropriate requests to be present in the United States legally.

The proposal would also extend Maine’s Medicaid benefits to this group of individuals.

The cash benefits would be equal to what an American can receive from the federal supplemental income program.

Gattine’s proposal does that by saying that the person must receive the same amount of money that they would receive if they were eligible for the federal supplemental security income program.

The proposal had a public hearing on Friday, April 12th, and will have a work session in coming weeks before being sent to the House and Senate.

Along with Rep. Drew Gattine, cosponsors of the bill are as follows

Senator Benjamin Chipman (D – Cumberland)
Representative Kristen Cloutier (D – Lewiston)
Senator Geoffrey Gratwick (D – Penobscot)
Representative Erik Jorgensen (D – Portland)
Senator Nathan Libby (D – Androscoggin)
Representative Victoria Morales (D – South Portland)
Senator Linda Sanborn (D – Cumberland)
Representative Rachel Talbot Ross (D – Portland)
Representative Charlotte Warren (D – Hallowell)

You can read the full bill by clicking here.

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