Best Ideas from LePage’s Welfare Consultant Lifted Word-for-Word from Someone Else’s Work

May 21, 2014 | Bangor Daily News |  Link to article

Editorial

Maine’s unemployment rate has slid to its lowest level since September 2008, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find work if you’re looking. Maine has nearly 16,000 fewer jobs today than it did in December 2007 at the official start of the recession.

So if Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is intent on lining up recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families with job opportunities, a subsidized employment program for the low-income adults receiving that assistance makes sense.

You can learn a lot about these subsidized job placement programs from a 2011 paper authored by policy experts from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Center for Law and Social Policy, both based in Washington, D.C. The 35-page paper is an informative read.

Apparently, Gary Alexander — the welfare consultant hired by Gov. Paul LePage’s administration through a $925,000 no-bid contract — agreed.

One of the few sensible recommendations from his group’srecently released 228-page report on Maine’s government assistance programs is for Maine to start a subsidized jobs program for its TANF recipients. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP, Maine is one of 10 states without such a program.

But in keeping with the rest of his paper, Alexander’s recommendation on subsidized work programs is far from original. In fact, much of it is lifted directly from the CBPP report.

To its credit, the Alexander Group cites the report as a source. But following the citation, the Alexander Group uses much of the CBPP report, word for word, passing it off as Alexander Group work.

“We don’t think professional standards would include excerpting significant chunks of text without quotation marks,” said Liz Schott, a senior fellow with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ welfare reform and income support division and one of the report’s three authors. “They listed text and made it appear like their own, and, yes, that appears to be plagiarism.”

It starts with a list about advantages to subsidized work programs. Then, the Alexander Group discusses the experience of other states that have started subsidized work programs. For about two full pages, pages 110 and 111, the Alexander Group uses the CBPP’s work, virtually word or word.

“Most recently (from 2009 to present), subsidized jobs programs have largely been associated with two groups: welfare recipients and ex-offenders,” reads the Alexander Group report on page 110. “As a part of efforts to shift the focus of their public-assistance programs to work, some state and county welfare agencies have used their regular TANF funds to create subsidized employment programs for individuals who have not been successful at finding unsubsidized employment.”

On page 5 of the CBPP report, you’d find the following: “Most recently, subsidized employment programs have largely been associated with two groups: welfare recipients and ex-offenders. As a part of efforts to shift the focus of their public assistance programs to work, some state and county welfare agencies have used their regular TANF funds to create subsidized employment programs for individuals who have not been successful at finding unsubsidized employment.”

And the Alexander Group section on subsidized employment isn’t the only part that relies heavily on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ work. In discussing general assistance, the Alexander Group relies on a 2011 report, authored by Schott and Clare Cho, about general assistance programs throughout the country.

“In 2011, as states struggled to close large budget shortfalls, ten states considered proposals to further shrink or eliminate general assistance, and seven states adopted such measures,” reads the Alexander Group report on page 99. “Illinois and Kansas eliminated their programs, Minnesota restricted eligibility, Michigan reduced benefit levels for all recipients, Washington restricted eligibility and reduced benefit levels for all recipients who still qualify, and Rhode Island has cut benefits for some recipients.”

A look at page 2 of the CBPP report turns up this information: “Then in 2011, as states struggled to close large budget shortfalls, ten states considered proposals to further shrink or eliminate General Assistance, and seven states adopted such measures. Illinois and Kansas eliminated their programs, Minnesota restricted eligibility, Michigan reduced benefit levels for all recipients,Washington restricted eligibility and reduced benefit levels for all recipients who still qualify, and Rhode Island is cutting benefits for some recipients.”

And to think this work will cost taxpayers $925,000. How much of it should have been paid to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities?

 

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