Photo EBT Moves to Statewide Implementation
AUGUSTA – After a successful pilot project in the Bangor Office, the Maine Department of Health and Human services will begin producing Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards with photographs statewide, beginning July 1.
“Placing photos on the Maine EBT card is one additional way to strengthen the integrity of our public assistance programs,’’ said Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “The photo will also help our staff to verify the identity of the benefit recipient and will be helpful in EBT trafficking cases where cards are sold for cash or drugs, or when multiple cards are in the possession of an individual.”
Approximately 223,000 EBT cards are active in Maine. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other welfare benefits are placed on the EBT card. Over the last 12 months, more than $383 million in benefits have been placed on EBT cards in Maine.
The new card features a white background and a blue banner. It replaces the former Pine Tree Card, which has scenic photographs of Maine on the front. The card will also include language that clearly indicates that misuse of the benefit card is considered a crime.
“Adding a photo to the EBT card will help to deter fraud and protect benefits for those who are legally and legitimately receiving them,’’ said Governor Paul R. LePage. “The card now makes it crystal clear that using EBT inappropriately is a crime, which makes it easier to prosecute those who take advantage of the system.”
Governor LePage Announces $11.3 Million to Support At-risk Students
PORTLAND – Governor Paul R. LePage announced today that the Maine Department of Education is giving out $11.3 million over the next five years to support extended learning opportunities for at-risk students.
The Governor announced the awards alongside Education Commissioner Jim Rier, LearningWorks CEO Ethan Strimling, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk and South Portland School Department Superintendent Suzanne Godin at the Reiche School in Portland.
LearningWorks will receive around $2.5 million over the five-year award period to provide hands-on, engaging and relevant extended day and summer programming at six schools in Portland and South Portland through the establishment and continuation of 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Community learning centers provide academic support and enrichment opportunities outside of school hours that improve the in-school performance of at-risk students – including those who struggle academically or are from low-income or immigrant families.
Senator Brian Langley Appointed to School Funding Commission
AUGUSTA – State Senator Brian Langley (R-Hancock) has been appointed to the Commission to Strengthen the Adequacy and Equity of Certain Cost Components of the School Funding Formula.
During the 125th Legislature, a bill was passed to review the Essential Programs and Services funding formula. That led to the creation of the Commission by the 126th Legislature. Public pre-school, support for economically disadvantaged children, teacher professional development, debt service for locally approved construction projects, and special education funding are among the topics to be considered by the Commission.
“It is a true honor to be appointed to this Commission and a responsibility I take very seriously,” Senator Langley said. “Education funding is one of the most complicated, yet vital considerations for those of us in elected office and it is essential to ensure that our citizens’ tax dollars are being spent fairly and wisely when it comes to education.
“School funding is a constantly changing and evolving dynamic, given population shifts around the state as well as new developments in education. We in the Legislature felt it was important to make sure education funding remains responsive to the needs of local communities, and that is the charge of this Commission.”
Strong Job Growth In Maine Reported, Unemployment Remains at 5.7 Percent
The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate estimate was 5.7 percent for May, unchanged from April and down from 6.7 percent one year ago, according to the Maine Labor Department. The number of unemployed declined 7,000 over the year to 40,600.
The share of the population that is employed was estimated at 61.6 percent, well above the U.S. average of 58.9 percent. May was the 80th consecutive month the employment to population ratio was above the national average. The U.S. unemployment rate estimate remained at 6.3 percent, down from 7.5 percent one year ago. The New England unemployment rate averaged 5.9 percent. Rates for other states were 4.4 percent in New Hampshire, 3.3 percent in Vermont, 5.6 percent in Massachusetts, 8.2 percent in Rhode Island, and 6.9 percent in Connecticut. Labor force and unemployment data the state, counties, and labor market areas is available here, http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/laus1.html.
The preliminary nonfarm payroll jobs estimate for May was 610,300, up 9,200 from one year ago. Private sector jobs were up 9,900, primarily in the leisure and hospitality, retail trade, professional and business services, and education and healthcare sectors. Those gains were partially offset by a decline of 700 jobs in government. Nonfarm payroll jobs data for the state and three metropolitan areas is available here, http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ces1.html . Not Seasonally Adjusted Substate Data The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate was 5.9 percent in May, down from 6.6 percent one year ago. Not seasonally adjusted rates ranged from 4.6 percent in Cumberland County to 8.9 percent in Aroostook and Washington Counties. Rates tended to be lower than the statewide average in southern and central counties and higher than average in northern and rim counties. The unemployment rate was below the statewide average in all three metropolitan areas: Portland-South Portland-Biddeford (4.6 percent), Lewiston-Auburn (5.5 percent), and Bangor (5.7 percent).