Robert Macdonald, the mayor of Lewiston, which is the second largest city in the state of Maine with population 36,437, plans to publicly disclose the names of every recipient of welfare.
The mayor made the announcement Thursday in a local news paper. According to the piece, Macdonald would submit an initiative to state legislature the next legislative session. The proposal requires that an official website is created with the name, home addresses, collected social benefits, and the amount of time recipients were on federal assistance.
“After all, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent,”
the mayor told reporters.
The measure follows a national trend of revamping nationwide assistance programs. Several other states have joined in the efforts amid virulent criticism on how taxpayer money is spent.
For instance, Kansas regulators passed a law in June that tightens the rules on how enrollees in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program get their assistance. Moreover, more than a dozen states now require some form of drug testing for those applying for the benefits.
As Macdonald seeks a state regulator to back his proposal in the state legislature, critics, however, said that the GOP mayor only tries to harvest more voter support as his reelection nears.
But the mayor argued that a website with the pension levels of state residents is already set in place, so welfare benefits should follow the trend and be publicly disclosed. On Thursday, he put the blame on progressive regulators that touted welfare recipients as a victimized and protected group.
Since his first election in 2011, Lewiston’s mayor has openly criticized government assistance programs. His outspoken attitude polarized sides and made him a beacon of light on the issue for many GOP voters ever since. But some of his remarks nearly led to his resignation such as the 2012 incident when he told Somali refugees coming to the state to leave their culture ‘at the door.’
Following the backlash in the media, the mayor said his words were taken out of context and denied offending the Somalis that seek shelter in the Pine Tree State. But in 2014, Macdonald did it again. He said that his town was becoming a ‘dumping ground’ of the refugees flocking to it from all parts of the state.
A year prior, he launched an initiative to stave off ‘welfare cheats.’ Nearly 100 recipients were left without assistance, while some of them were even charged with fraud.
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