Governor Mills Halts Urgently Needed Funding for Maine Nursing Homes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – JULY 8, 2019

Governor Mills last Wednesday announced that she will not sign a bipartisan bill (LD 1758) that would have provided urgently needed funds to Maine nursing homes. This inaction will delay by at least six months the funding provided by the legislature to support these struggling facilities.

In just the last two years, seven Maine nursing homes have had to close due to a shortage of workers and a sharp increase in labor costs.

The funding allocated by this bill would have eased that burden and made more beds available to Maine seniors in need.

By preventing the bill from becoming law, Governor Mills has postponed this funding for at least six months, which may jeopardize other facilities that are already operating on the brink.

In addition, an amendment to this bill would have extended state reimbursements for pay increases to nursing home staff that took effect last year.

Governor Mills’ proposed budget did not include any of this funding.

Now, because of the governor’s lack of action, those reimbursements expired on July 1, 2019, leaving these facilities in the position of either lowering wages or covering the increased pay in some other way, just when additional state funds also fail to materialize.

The bill was sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) and supported unanimously by both houses of the legislature. Republicans secured funding for the bill on the last day of the session and it was included in the biennial budget that just passed.

Also, the legislature passed the bill as an emergency measure so that nursing homes could begin getting the funds immediately rather than wait the usual ninety days for bills to become law.

Now, because of the governor’s actions, they will have to wait until at least January to receive these funds.

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Republican Senator Marianne Moore of Calais:

“I was very disappointed to hear the Governor has chosen to not sign this important bill into law!  During the public hearing members of the Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on how critical this continued funding was to avoid additional closures of nursing facilities and residential care facilities across the State.  Postponing this funding for six months is detrimental to the continuum of care for our Elderly.”

Republican Senator Robert Foley of Wells:

“While the legislature was pushing to fund this bill in the last few days of the session, I was struggling to place my own mother in a senior living facility. After calling facilities as far as two hours away and finding no beds available, I was forced to take her out of state. The governor’s lack of action on this bill will make that same struggle a difficult reality for too many Maine families for no good reason.”

Testimony of Senate President Troy Jackson, the bill’s sponsor

“Seven nursing homes have closed in just the last 15 months and others are struggling to pay their bills. Six of those closed in 2018, which caused 250 nursing home residents to be displaced and resulted in 400 people losing their jobs. These dedicated workers can’t afford to go without pay, and elderly Mainers can’t afford to go without care.”

Testimony of Wanda Pelkey, CFO of First Atlantic Healthcare

“Last year, year over year direct care labor costs rose 8%. Meanwhile, we received no MaineCare inflation adjustment to fund. Further, DHHS left out contract labor costs in LD 925’s Supplemental Wage Allowance calculations due to imprecise language in the bill. Is it any wonder 7 facilities closed in the last twelve months?”

“When we run out of money, there are many losers and no winners. More 100 year old persons displaced, more community jobs lost, and more stressed municipal budgets. Honestly, I don’t know how to solve the dilemma without your support and passage of LD 1758.”

Testimony of Lisa Henderson, Exec. Dir., Leading Age, Maine and NH

“Maine’s long—term care system relies heavily on MaineCare funding (around 70% across the continuum). It is not within providers’ power to simply charge more for their services, as any private employer would do in the face of rising operating costs. Only you have the power to provide some relief.”

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