Senate Republicans Fund Two Bills Important to Aroostook County

(AUGUSTA, ME) – At the end of the budget process every two years, Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate of the Legislature receive a small amount of money to fund bills that have been enacted, but were not funded in the budget. This year, each of the four caucuses received $2 million to spend on these bills.

Republicans focused much of their allotment on two bills sponsored by Senator Trey Stewart of Aroostook County, which totals roughly $1 million, when including the federal match. House Republicans supported one of these bills with $400,000 of their allotment.

LD 595: “Resolve, to Ensure That Access to Oral and Facial Ambulatory Surgical Centers in Maine Remains Viable.” This resolve directs the Department of Health and Human Services to amend its reimbursement rate under the MaineCare program to $1,250 for freestanding ambulatory surgical centers performing procedures on the dentoalveolar structure or the bones that support the teeth. The bill adds nearly a half-million dollars annually to the program between state and federal fund.

This funding will allow residents of Aroostook County and across Maine to critical healthcare access that’s performed at Northern Maine Oral & Fascial Surgical Center, PA by Dr. Hank Ford in Presque Isle.  Dr. Ford accepts unqualified MaineCare recipients who are some of the most vulnerable patients in Maine.  The MaineCare rate has not increased in nearly 20 years, which threatened the program and services offered.

LD 492: “An Act to Create a Regional Grant Program to Help Rural Businesses Find Qualified Staff.” This bill created a program called the Rural Workforce Recruitment and Retention Grant Fund within the Department of Economic and Community Development to provide grants for local workforce initiatives in rural regions of the State.  The funding includes $200,000 in the fiscal year that began on July 1, and $200,000 in the next fiscal year.

Sen. Trey Stewart: “Ensuring critical rural health care remains viable has and will remain a priority of mine in the legislature, which is why I’m very excited to announce the funding secured in LD 595 for that purpose.  Even prior to the pandemic, Aroostook County had a labor shortage that required outside-the-box thinking on how we solve the problem.  LD 492 does just that by allowing for workforce recruiter positions to receive funding through the state to help ease that burden on employers. Having these bills not only pass but receive funding—which is typically the most challenging and crucial part of the legislative process—is a very positive outcome for northern Maine.”

Including these two bills, Sen. Stewart has had 11 bills pass into law this session, more than any other Republican in the House or Senate.

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