Entries Filed in 'Public Safety'
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree warned Congressional leaders that letting emergency unemployment benefits expire at the end of this month would slow the economic recovery and make it harder for workers looking for a job to get by.
“If Congress doesn’t act, 3,000 people in Maine will lose their unemployment checks at the end of the month and nearly 9,000 more will by next summer. Not only will that be a devastating blow to families struggling to make ends meet but will have a real impact on economic growth,” Pingree said. “Unemployment checks don’t sit in someone’s bank account, they get spent on gas, groceries, clothes, home heating oil and other essentials at local businesses.”
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) unemployment checks are the most effective benefit, dollar-for-dollar, to drive local economic activity.
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Tags: Unemployment insurance
The Maine’s People Alliance contends that LePage gave the contract for the DHHS and DOL office to a political donor of his campaign. That assertion is backed up by a Portland Press Herald report.
At a press conference and protest march, two dozen lawmakers, community leaders, and advocates strongly opposed the LePage administration’s decision to move the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Department of Labor (DOL) offices from the service center in downtown Portland to the airport area in South Portland.
Portland Mayor Michael Brennan said the move “didn’t make any sense” and called on Governor LePage to “step in and stop this process.”
The downtown offices have easy access to public transport while the new proposed location near the airport has access but the cost to get there could be prohibitive for some DHHS and DOL clients. A roundtrip bus ride from the downtown Pulse METRO hub to the new location takes 80 minutes, stops 72 times, and costs $3.00. A one way taxi ride costs $17.
“The new location may only be four miles as the crow flies but, if you don’t have a car, those four miles can take you forty-minutes by bus, with 36 stops,” said Justin Alfond, the Maine Senate President. “For many, their lives are hard enough and giving folks one more barrier to get over can only do one thing—discourage those who already feel discouraged and take away hope from those who may feel hopeless. The bottom line is that the LePage administration is making it harder for people to get their lives back.”
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The U.S. State Department has said it would review and consider any change of use for the Portland Pipeline, including the reversing of its flow.
“I’m glad the State Department is taking this seriously. The Portland Pipeline passes through the hearts of many Maine communities and along some of our state’s most valuable natural resources, like Sebago Lake. Any change in the pipeline’s use—including the transport of Canadian tar sands—should be reviewed closely at the federal level. While there are currently no plans to make changes, I think it’s important that the State Department has said that none could go forward unchecked,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
Communities across the state have issued ordinances baring Tar Sands from being transported through their areas. The environmental clean-up of leaks in Tar Sands Pipelines continues in committees throughout America. The most notable being in Michigan.
In February of this year, Pingree wrote a letter signed by 17 House and Senate members asking the State Department to require a new permit and full environmental review before allowing the owners of the Portland Pipeline to reverse its flow to transport tar sands.
Tags: Tar Sands in Maine
Culkey with her PSA as she prepares for the Olympics
With the Olympics less than three months away, Julia Clukey of the U.S. Luge Team and the members of the Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association (MBWDA) have created a public service announcement (PSA) for Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving PSA features Clukey, a member of the U.S. Luge Team and spokesperson for the MBWDA, sharing the things she is thankful for this holiday season. As part of the 30-second PSA, she reminds listeners that if you are going to drink, designate a driver, and if you are under 21, it is illegal to purchase or consume alcohol.
“As I am traveling during the World Cup season, I often think about my family and friends back home that have supported me and my dreams. This Thanksgiving I won’t be home in Maine, but I wanted to find a way to share how grateful I am for everyone’s support as well as promote the importance of responsibility and good decision making during the upcoming holiday season,” said Julia Clukey, spokesperson for the Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association.
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Maine’s economy has not improved for Maine’s children and families according to the 2013 Maine KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual compilation of evidence-based data on the status and well-being of children in Maine.
“Investing in young children is an investment in the future prosperity of Maine,” Ned McCann, executive director of MCA, stated. “At the Maine Children’s Alliance we have been concerned that during the time that more of Maine’s children are getting poorer, fewer are receiving support to help them through their financial hardships.”
Kids Count reports that in 2011 (the most recent data available), 19.3 percent of all Maine children under age 18 were living in poverty-an increase from 18.2 percent in 2010 as reported last year. Childhood poverty varied widely across Maine’s sixteen counties, from a low of 13.6 percent in York County to a high of 31.2 percent in Washington County.
Among Maine children under age five, almost one in four were living in poverty. Along the same lines, Maine’s median income of families with children dropped to $53,400 in 2012-down slightly from $53,600 in 2011. Maine families are getting by on incomes much lower than their New England neighbors and the nation as a whole.
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Top Democratic leaders in the Maine House on Monday called Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed toxic chemical rules “smoke and mirrors” that fail to protect Maine children. Under the LePage proposal, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and formaldehyde would be named as Priority Chemicals under Maine’s Kid Safe Products Act. These chemicals have already been removed from most children’s products, so the move has little public health benefit.
“These kinds of toxic chemicals have been banned or taken out of children’s products for years, in some cases for over a decade. This is nothing but window dressing.” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “These rules do little or nothing to protect pregnant women and young children from harmful toxic chemicals.”
Former Gov. Angus King signed legislation banning mercury in most products in 2001 and 2002, and the Maine Legislature with Gov. John Baldacci phased out arsenic in pressure-treated wood in 2003.
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Mainers are overwhelmingly lining up in opposition to draft rules for mining in Maine. According to an analysis by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, 248 individuals from all parts of the state have either testified in person or submitted comments to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to oppose the draft mining rules, while only 16 individuals have spoken or submitted comments in support of the rules. An additional 2,000 people signed a petition submitted by Maine Conservation Voters expressing opposition to weak mining rules.
At the public hearing, opponents of the rules outnumbered proponents by 58 to 11, based on sign-in sheets.
“DEP’s draft rules fail to provide the level of protection needed for Maine’s environment and taxpayers,” said NRCM Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim. “Clearly, the public is becoming increasingly concerned about the pollution and long-term financial costs that could result from metal mining in Maine. That explains the strong public comments calling on DEP to revise the draft rules to include stronger protections.”
The Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) currently is reviewing the draft mining rules and comments on those draft rules received during a public hearing held October 17 and submitted by a comment deadline of October 28. DEP has received more than 1,000 pages of comments on the draft rules.
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A bill that would allow local health inspectors to inspect restaurants will be considered by the Legislature.
“Local health inspectors have years of valuable experience,” said Cooper. “They are well suited to help fill the gap created by the limited number of state inspectors.”
The state has set a goal of inspecting each eating establishment at least once every two years, but there are concerns that the state lacks the personnel to achieve this goal. Recent media reports have documented a lack of consistent inspections in some areas of the state.
Passengers riding the Downeaster have increased by 123 percent since 2005. Most of the passengers are tourists, business travelers, and students, but an estimated 20 percent are commuters from Portland to Boston.
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Lawmakers expressed mounting frustration with the ongoing problems with the new transportation system for MaineCare patients, and the slow progress in finding solutions, during this morning’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee meeting.
“Certainly, transitions come with bumps in the road. We expected that. But this is beyond growing pains,” said Senator Dawn Hill, the Senate Chair of the committee. “The contracts were awarded because we expected the brokers to have the capacity, experience, and expertise to provide these services. People cannot wait for dialysis or a diagnosis from their doctor while the brokers get their act together.”
Since August when the Department of Health and Human Services switched from a transportation program operated by local nonprofits to a regional system run by so-called ride brokers, the new system has been plagued with failures and complaints.
Since the change, clients have had difficulty booking rides. Patients have missed appointments because rides have been delayed, or failed to show up completely. In one case, a woman’s three-year-old son with developmental disabilities was taken to the wrong house.
“The people of Maine are paying $28 million for services that are not being delivered,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, the House Chair of the committee. “This is a critically serious issue that needs to be solved immediately.”
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