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Proposed welfare bills spark debate

AUGUSTA (WGME) -- People who are fed up with welfare fraud, and others who say theyre troubled by the governors proposals, both waited for hours Tuesday for a chance to be heard by the Health and Human Services Committee.

The governor has several bills currently before the legislature. A CBS 13 Waste Watch report in early January found welfare benefits being used at smoke shops, bars, and even strip clubs. Several of the governor's bills would prevent benefits from being used for tobacco, alcohol, and lottery tickets.

Supporters say it would help more low income people. Others say this feels like an attack and more needs to be done to strengthen anti-poverty programs.

We believe the effort to reduce fraud is misguided and only strengthens the negative stereotypes of people with low incomes. Fraud is not the problem, poverty is, said homeless advocate Jim Devine.

Another bill would make it illegal to use welfare benefits while out of state, but what became particularly divisive Tuesday is the proposal to eliminate a program that allows parents in college to continue getting benefits.