AUGUSTA – Maine House Speaker Mark Eves on Tuesday announced that his “Ticket to Work” bill, which helps struggling Maine people secure long-term employment, became law.  

 “This ‘Ticket to Work’ measure will help struggling Mainers get the skills they need to get a good job and permanently climb out of poverty,” said Eves, D-North Berwick. “The security of a good job will mean more families can keep their house warm, put food on the table and put gas in the car.”

 The legislation, LD 1343, “An Act to Improve Work Readiness for Families facing Significant Barriers to Employment,” would help recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families prepare for the workforce.  It directs the Department of Health and Human Services to provide a comprehensive assessment to identify and coordinate the training and tools recipients need to find long-term employment. 

 Eves said this type of assessment had proven pivotal in other states, like Minnesota, for “moving families off programs, into secure employment and out of poverty. This is the right approach to reforming our anti-poverty programs.”

 During the public hearing on the bill, Tina Hutchinson from Lewiston told lawmakers that connecting with the right training and tools allowed her family to overcome obstacles to finding and maintaining employment.

 Hutchinson is a mother of a child with special needs and also has personal medical issues, making it hard for her to secure long-term employment. She went through a vocational training program to help her obtain a Medical Transcription Certification – a job she could do from home and still meet her child’s needs.

 The legislation also directs the Department to transition TANF recipients with severe disabilities and barriers to work from the state program and transition them to SSI/SSDI, reducing the cost to the state. A 2010 survey of TANF recipients conducted by the University of Maine found that 90 percent of recipients who were on the program for longer than five years faced a physical and mental health disability.

 The LePage administration testified in support of the measure, though the bill became law without the Governor’s signature. The bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate.

 The measure will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

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