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Welfare reform isn’t just about reducing waste and fraud. It’s about getting people off the system and helping them become productive members of society.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

Our administration has been working hard to improve the welfare system by preventing the misuse of welfare benefits. At the same time, we have been building relationships that help people return to work.

To help people become financially independent, jobs must be available. More than 8,000 jobs are now listed on the Maine Job Bank alone—and that doesn’t include postings on other job sites.

With so many jobs available, we must make sure Mainers have the skills to get a successful career. This is where the state can help.

The Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services have been collaborating to build the bridge from welfare to work. Each agency is doing what it does best to identify what is preventing people who receive welfare benefits from getting back into the workforce.

We provide them the training and support they need to get ready to work, then find a place where they can get real work experience. This way, they are set up to succeed when they get a job, rather than failing and ending up back on the system.

We aren’t just throwing money at the problem. Money alone does not remove the shackles of poverty, and it won’t give people the training and guidance they need to get back to a productive life. Instead, we are rolling up our sleeves and teaching Mainers the skills needed to get and keep a job successfully.

Having agencies combine their expertise to help Maine families is not a revolutionary idea to those of us who have worked in the private sector. But let me tell you, folks, in state government, this is a revolution. But it is proving to be a successful one.

Those who are on TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, have benefited from this the most during the last six months. We are now helping more than 1,000 Mainers to find full-time careers by assessing their skills and matching them with jobs that work for them.

So far, 817 TANF recipients have been referred to the worksite program; 204 have been placed in work experiences; and another 121 people are now working. We are pleased that more than 600 Maine employers have agreed to participate in this program.

Unfortunately, 180 people who were on TANF chose not to take part in the work participation program. As a result, they are no longer receiving TANF benefits. We must reserve our limited resources for the truly needy and those who are willing to do what it takes to get themselves off welfare and into a successful future.

We are changing the focus from “Welfare for Life” to “Welfare to Work.” In less than four years, my administration has reduced the number of TANF cases by 50 percent. The majority of TANF recipients are now working toward self-sufficiency.

We are making progress, but we have much more to do. I believe the role of state government is to help Mainers succeed, not hold them back. When it comes to giving people a hand up so they can provide a better life for themselves and their children, I’m all in.

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