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LePage's welfare reform generates controversy, questions

STATEWIDE (WGME) -- As part of his sweeping welfare reform, Governor Paul LePage wants to ban the use of cash transactions with Electronic Benefit Cards outside of Maine.

The sweeping welfare reform is controversial, and for some confusing.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew made it clear that the proposed ban only applies to benefits under the state-regulated Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF.

The Governor's proposal does not limit out-of-state food stamp purchases, because that's a federal program.

Some TANF recipients who live along the New Hampshire state line tell CBS13 News that under the Governors ban, they would be forced to travel farther away to do their shopping using more time, more gas, and more money they say they dont have to spare.

I totally agree with them, said Lebanon resident Cecile Deshaies. Go where they can get the best value, thats what it is all about.

When asked whether the added financial strain was considered when writing this legislation, Commissioner Mayhew said, Again, this legislation does not restrict the use of an EBT card related to food stamps. This is on the TANF program, that change was made in the legislation. We also want to emphasize the importance of these state dollars being reinvested in Maine.

Mayhew says Maine tax dollars are being lost in some of these transactions.

And many Mainers we spoke with say that needs to change.

I think if you're getting it from Maine, you should spend it in Maine, said Acton resident Wendy Blow.

Many people suggest the legislation be amended to allow transactions in New Hamshire, but maintain the ban in other states.

Commissioner Mayhew tells us the administration is not likely to budge on this proposal.

Meanwhile, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a democrat, says the governor's proposal could be unconstitutional because it restricts a person's ability to travel.