PORTLAND, Maine — A food stamp benefit for working families in Maine is set to increase by more than three times starting in March, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The increase will bring the Working Families Supplement benefit from $15 to $50 per month for some 13,000 Mainers in need.
"Too many Maine families who receive SNAP and TANF are still going hungry because their level of aid is simply inadequate," DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a statement.
Lawmakers approved of the increase in 2011 using existing surplus funds from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
The benefits are provided to people who work 30 hours a week or 20 hours if they have a child less than six years of age.
The Department said they are also issuing SNAP card benefits one week earlier than usual.
Last month's benefits were distributed nearly a month early due to the national government shutdown. Officials feared if the shutdown dragged on, some 180,000 Mainers would have been left without money for food.
Maine ranks third among states for the rate of hunger, with nearly 15 percent of households in the state considered food insecure, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
"Putting this existing funding to use will help provide the resources they need to feed themselves, take care of their basic level of needs, and position themselves to get to work," Lambrew said.
The funds will be distributed on March 3.