At a press conference today in the State House, Senator Bellows broke three weeks of silence on the closure of one of the largest employers in her district.
Home Care for Maine in Farmingdale, the state’s largest home care agency, is a non-profit that cares for MaineCare funded patients, particularly senior citizens. Three weeks ago they announced that they would be closing in April. This decision displaces 360 workers and leaves 600 Maine seniors and adults with physical disabilities without needed care.
In news reports, Newel Auger, an attorney for Home Care, specifically blamed the closure on the “lack of an increase in the MaineCare reimbursement rate to compensate for the hike in the state minimum wage, along with other government mandates.”
During the last session, Senate Republicans fought to allocate more funding in the two-year state budget to help nursing homes and other senior care organizations remain solvent. Despite our efforts, Governor Mills and Democrats refused to include the needed funding in the $8 billion biennial budget they passed last June.
Senate Republicans allocated all of the money they had available last session to these groups but it was not enough. In repeated press releases, radio addresses, and other communications since then, Senate Republicans have continued to draw attention to this critical issue, but our efforts have fallen on deaf ears.
At the press conference, Senator Bellows says, “It’s time to fix a decade of under-funding of vital services for our most vulnerable communities, including our seniors and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
The closure of Home Care for Maine is not a problem that is “a decade in the making,” as Senator Bellows claims. It is specifically tied to the 60% increase in the state’s minimum wage over the last three years and the resistance by Democrats to providing proper funding to match the mandated increase in labor costs.
State government told these agencies “you will pay more in labor costs, but we will not provide that money for you to care for people covered by our MaineCare program.” The only result of this kind of government action toward a non-profit is the end of that organization.
As Home Care’s attorney pointed out, “If you’re losing as much as 50 cents an hour for every hour of work you’re providing, or hour of service, there’s no way any business, for profit or otherwise, can stay in business at that rate.”
This will not be the last of these care organizations to fail and close due to this funding crisis.
We are glad that Senator Bellows has finally acknowledged the loss of this important organization and employer in her district. We only wish she would have been as concerned last year, when the state budget increase of one billion dollars was being doled out to everything but nursing care.