Robert Macdonald, mayor of Lewiston, Maine, is proposing a bill that would publicize the information of all recipients of government welfare programs. He is hoping to push the legislature to publish the names and addresses of, “every name on the dole”. The mayor made his aims known in a weekly column he writes for the Twin City Times.
There is a Maine website in existence already that lists recipients of state pension, which Macdonald noted in his column and compared his program to. He claims that in the same interest of transparency, the information should be published. Names, addresses, services and amounts, as well as length of use are all to be listed on the website. He says that those who participate in welfare programs should not have the right to protected information.
Since it is a state issue, Macdonald would need to garner support at the state level, which he says that he has. The Lewiston mayor is calling for the public, “to know how its money is being spent,”. He is denying that the website would be meant to embarrass those on welfare.
While his democratic opposition for re election, Ben Chin, has been critical, Chin has not offered any other ways to provide fiscal transparency with respect to welfare. In fact, Chin has attacked the idea as, “Resorting to publicly shaming poor people,”
There may be some grip to Macdonald’s foothold with the issue. Maine Gov. Paul LePage has enacted tougher requirements for welfare recipients such as drug testing. Macdonald is hoping to add another restriction to the bill, a limit of 60 months total of getting benefits for each user.
The election for Lewiston mayor will be held in November. Pending the outcome, Macdonald’s traction could suffer or grow exponentially.
The issue of government benefits continues in the rounds of both public opinion and political forum as both sides argue whether they create opportunity or foster dependency.