It’s no secret that Maine’s rightwing governor, Paul LePage, hates the poors and has taken any number of steps to stop them from whooping it up on the public dime, whether he’s imposing work requirements and asset limitations on food stamp recipients, or trying to prohibit them from buying baloney that’s too good for them. LePage’s latest attempt to dick over poor people, the Bangor Daily News reports, involves taking $1.7 million in cash welfare funding and, instead of distributing it to needy families, paying Christian-run outfits to hold after-school classes to tell teenagers to not get pregnant.
Even MoarMaine Gov. Paul LePage Takin’ All The Federal Welfare Monies, Not Giving It To Poor Kids. Huh!
You see, TANF rules allow the diversion of some TANF funds to other programs, as long as they help kids in some way; since 2015, Maine has been spending money on nifty after-school programs that will supposedly reduce teen pregnancy, or at least tell teenagers not to fuck — or to get married if they do. So you get really excellent uses of funds for programs like the “Youth Leadership Academy” run by My Place Teen Center:
As part of the academy, about 60 students (out of 500 who use the teen center) commit to participating regularly in activities that stress health and wellness, social-emotional skills, career readiness and civic engagement.
Another outfit, an overnight church camp called “Fair Haven Camps,” got TANF funds to run an after-school class for 17 middle-schoolers who partook in
outdoor activities in wilderness survival, arts and crafts, and lessons in financial literacy provided by volunteers from Bangor Savings Bank.
So much better than letting poor parents waste that money on socks and underwear for snotty toddlers! The federal funds can be disbursed to church groups like that, just as long as the programs aren’t “inherently religious activities.” So they can say “Let’s go hiking and think clean thoughts, but not “Let’s all pray the Devil won’t send us dirty thoughts.”
It gets even better: A spokesperson from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services couldn’t specify to the Bangor Daily News what kind of quality control they have for the programs, how the department chose the programs in the first place, or even a basic question like the number of kids being served by the after-school programs. But it’s definitely worthwhile, because if the programs DO convince several thousand teens not to get pregnant, just think of all the money the state will save! No, there doesn’t appear to be any mechanism to evaluate whether the programs are actually preventing pregnancy. Why do you ask?
As Slate points out, Maine isn’t the only state to shift TANF funds away from actual cash payments to poor families instead treating TANF as a slush fund to cover other state programs:
Only half of TANF money is being spent directly on cash assistance, child care and work support. Some states spend less than 20 percent of their TANF funding on these core concerns. Unsurprisingly, many of the states that have done the most to cut off assistance to people in poverty are those run by Republican governors and legislatures.
As Slate reported last year, some states use TANF money on marriage counseling programs, often attended by middle-class couples who have no need of financial assistance. Marketplace found that Michigan has started using TANF money for college scholarships, half of which go to middle- and upper-class families.
This is really great news, since obviously it means poverty is vanishing — or at least it should, just as soon as all the anti-poverty programs’ funds are redistributed upward. (As we already know, while rich people need more money as an incentive to go to work, poor people need less money as an incentive to go to work.) Perhaps on that glorious day when all anti-poverty programs are discontinued, poor people will finally get it through their heads that they should stop being poor. Then America truly will be great again.