Maine Gov. Paul LePage Diverts Welfare Money For Poor People To Christian Summer Camp
Republican Gov. Paul LePage of Maine is spending $1.7 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds on after-school programs, including a Christian summer camp, to curb “out-of-wedlock pregnancies.’
LePage’s administration says that diverting the money away from poor people to these programs will “better support our youth,” notes the Bangor Daily News.
Luke Shaefer, an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan, disagreed:
After-school programs don’t pay the rent, and they don’t keep kids in underwear. They don’t keep the parents in underwear.
One of the after-school programs is run by Fair Haven Camps, which operates a Christian summer camp.
Tristan Starbird, Fair Haven Camps’ executive director, said the after-school program is in a rural school district:
What we want to do is meet that need, and this block grant kind of provided a way for us to launch it full speed, so we’re very thankful to be able to do this.
Religious groups are allowed to get TANF money thanks to a “Charitable Choice” provision in a 1996 federal law that turned TANF payments into block grants to states, but religious organizations are not allowed to use those funds for “inherently religious activities.”
Fair Haven Camps will reportedly use the money — originally earmarked for poor people — on outdoor activities in wilderness survival, arts and crafts, and financial literacy lessons.
Samuel Hammond, poverty and welfare policy analyst at the Niskanen Center, criticized the diversion of funds:
To the extent that Maine has diverted money that’s earmarked for poor people and for cash assistance to other things and treated it like a slush fund, it actually harms the longer-term conservative project of federalism because it signals that the state is not a credible steward of federal money.