The demand for free meals may grow in January when an estimated 6500 so called able bodied Mainers, between ages of 18-50, with no dependent children, will lose their federal food subsidy.
The letters from the Department of Health and Human Services went out in September.
“This is a federal requirement, but it's in keeping with the governor’s focus on self-sufficiency,” said DHHS commissioner Mary Mayhew.
Governor Paul LePage could have asked for a waiver to continue the subsidies based on Maine’s relatively poor economy, but he chose not to.
LePage, himself a child of welfare, has said that dependence on subsides is holding the state back.
“If you're on food stamps then you're living in poverty. The governor wants people off poverty,” said Mayhew.
To keep the subsidy, welfare recipients have to work 20 hours per week, volunteer the equivalent, or participate in work training. If they haven't submitted proof they have done so by the end of the month, their EBT cards won't work come in January.
But many welfare dependent Mainers including, Priscilla Boucher, say it’s not that they don’t want to work. "There are no jobs,” said Boucher.
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Advocacy groups for low income Mainers, including Maine Equal Justice Partners, say cutting food stamps is adding insult to injury
“They're losing benefits because they can't find work. As hard as they're trying, that seems wrong to us,” said Chris Hastedt of MEJP.
It will take months to see what impact these cuts will have, but Bread of Life, which already served a record number of meals in 2014, is bracing for a very busy start to the new year.