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In the eyes of the state of Maine, Laurie Kane is an able-bodied adult without dependents, and thus ineligible for most forms of government support. In her own eyes, it is hard to see how she is going to find housing, work, and stability without help.
Kane is one of tens of thousands of Mainers affected by sweeping changes made to the state’s anti-poverty programs by the state’s Republican governor, Paul LePage. His administration has tightened eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps, and welfare, and hopes to do yet more: adding work requirements to Medicaid, removing young adults from public health coverage, and eliminating the state’s general-assistance funds for the indigent. The broad aim of these reforms is to create a safety net that provides help for the disabled, elderly, and children, but prompts able-bodied adults to help themselves. “It is this idea that all welfare should be workfare,” said Michael Hillard, an economist at the University of Southern Maine...