The federal government has warned that Maine could face sanctions after breaking federal and state laws by mismanaging its food stamp program under Gov. Paul LePage (R). And experts suggest that the only way to make sure people don't go hungry is for another state to take over administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program.
David Farmer of the Bangor Daily News reported on Monday that U.S. Department of Agriculture put Maine's Department of Health and Human Service on notice as the number of residents with food insecurity has been quickly trending up since LePage took over as governor.
According to Farmer, Maine's state agencies went from ranking 36 out of 53 states to dead last under LePage. And food insecurity in Maine has been increasing at a time when it's decreasing nationwide. Only Arkansas and Missouri have higher rates of people with very low food security.
"If the department’s goal is to make more people hungry, the strategy is working," Farmer wrote. "Under LePage and Mayhew, more people are hungry and the department isn’t doing its job."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture asserts that the state's "chronically poor performance in timeliness is in direct conflict with the application processing statutory and regulatory provisions meant to protect low-income household’s right to receive nutrition assistance benefits in a timely manner."
In fact, LePage and DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew have bragged that the state has cut more than 40,000 people from receiving SNAP benefits between 2014 and 2015.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has threatened to strip the state of federal funding, but Farmer predicted that sanctions may not be enough to convince Republicans who are determined to reduce the size of government.
"While the USDA is most likely to start with sanctions if the department fails to act, it’s also time to consider other alternatives, including receivership for critical DHHS functions such as the psychiatric hospital or allowing another state to administer Maine’s SNAP program," Farmer concluded. "If the LePage administration can’t get the job done, it’s time to find someone who can."