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Last week, we announced that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families has dropped by over 40 percent since 2011.

This week, we are pleased to report that the number of welfare fraud cases being prosecuted has increased dramatically. Our welfare reforms are working.

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

When I took office in January 2011, there were more than 39,000 individuals on TANF (39,171). Today, there are almost 16,000 fewer people on the program (23,498).

In addition, the number of prosecutions for welfare fraud and abuse is on the rise. The Fraud Investigation and Recovery Unit investigated 711 complaints of fraud through January 2013.

Including criminal cases and other investigations, the unit was pursuing almost 1,100 complaints as of January (1,092).

To further reduce fraud and abuse, our administration hired eight more investigators in May.

Only 10 cases of fraud were referred to the unit in 2010 under the previous administration. Under our administration, that number tripled to 32 in 2011 and then jumped to 45 in 2012.

Seventy-one percent of the referrals came from our new public reporting system, which consists of a form on the DHHS website and a new fraud hotline. Our administration established the hotline in 2011, and our efforts are paying off.

We did this to protect Maine taxpayers and to care for our most needy. While some disabled Mainers sat on waiting lists for services, others who were capable of working collected benefits through fraud. That is wrong.

We need to help struggling Mainers to earn success, not to learn dependency.

And we must be careful of politicians who encourage more welfare by promising free health care. The last time they promised free health care, we ended up with 750-million-dollars of welfare debt to Maine’s hospitals. Under a plan proposed by our administration, we are finally paying our hospitals next week.

No matter what the politicians tell you, all forms of welfare must be paid for by hard-working taxpayers who are trying to feed their own families, provide their kids with necessities for school and pay for heating in the winter. That’s why we must make sure every single tax dollar is spent appropriately.

We are pleased with the results of our efforts to reduce welfare and prosecute fraud. But we know there is much more work to be done. That is why we will continue to push for more welfare reforms in the next legislative session.

If you suspect anyone of abusing welfare assistance, please call the Fraud Hotline at 866-348-1129 or the Office of the Governor at 287-3531.

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