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  • Maine Governor Mills signs Law to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    On April 26, 2019 Maine tribal leaders and representatives, joined Governor Janet Mills while she signed the law establishing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Maine.

    LD 179 An Act To Change the Name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day,  sponsored by Representative Benjamin Collings of Portland, passed with bipartisan support in the Legislature.

    “Our history is by no means perfect. But, for too long, it has been written and presented in a way that fails to acknowledge our shortcomings,” said Governor Janet Mills. “There is power in a name and in who we choose to honor. Today, we take another step in healing the divisions of the past, in fostering inclusiveness, in telling a fuller, deeper history, and in bringing the State and Maine’s tribal communities together to build a future shaped by mutual trust and respect.”

    "On behalf of the Penobscot Nation and with all the Wabanaki and Indigenous People of Maine in our hearts we thank the Maine State Legislature, especially Representative Benjamin Collings and the bill's cosponsors and supporters, and Governor Mills for this significant act,” said Ambassador Maulian Dana of the Penobscot Nation. 

    “It shows a true intent to honor the Indigenous Nations of our State and brings all citizens to an elevated understanding and reconciliation of our shared history.  I also want to thank all those involved in the efforts over the past few years to make these changes in towns and municipalities, they brought these important discussions to light and the conversations had a ripple effect all the way to the honorable law makers of Maine. We are graciously appreciative of this measure that reflects a state that feels more welcoming and inclusive.  As the original stewards of these lands and waters we are happy that our ancestral ties and contributions are validated and celebrated instead of silenced and ignored by the previous holiday that glorified the attempted genocide of our Nations. Our past can be painful but our present and future can be brighter with acts of unity and honesty."  

    “I was privileged to bring this bill forward on behalf of Maine’s tribal community,” said Representative Collings, D-Portland. “Maine’s tribes have played a vital role in building our state and will continue to influence our future. I am grateful to Gov. Mills for signing this bill today and paying tribute to those who truly deserve it.”

    Governor Mills was joined at the signing ceremony by Representative Collings, Representative Rachel Talbot Ross, Chief Clarissa Sabattus of the Houlton Band of Maliseets, Chief Marla Dana and Vice Chief Maggie Dana of Pleasant Point, Chief William Nicholas and Representative Rena Newell of the Passamaquoddy Nation, Ambassador Maulian Dana and former Chief Barry Dana of the Penobscot Nation, and former state Representative and Senior Advisor on Tribal Affairs to the Governor, Donna Loring. 

    Maine now joins Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, South Dakota, Oregon, Minnesota and Hawaii in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. More than 130 cities and towns, including Starks, Orono, Bangor, Portland, Gouldsboro, Belfast and Brunswick in Maine, have also made the change.

    LD 179 was cosponsored by Senator Carpenter of Aroostook, Representative Cardone of Bangor, Representative Maxmin of Nobleboro, Representative Newell of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Representative O’Connor of Berwick, Representative Perry of Calais, Representative Reckitt of South Portland, Representative Rykerson of Kittery and Representative Talbot Ross of Portland.

  • Law to provide internet access in rural Maine via libraries signed by Gov. Mills

    Photo Caption: left to right, Gov. Janet Mills, Rep. Robert Alley, D-Beals, and Brooke Johnson of the ConnectME Authority attend the signing of LD 147.

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    A bill sponsored by Rep. Robert Alley, D-Beals, to allow rural Mainers to check out mobile wi-fi devices from their local libraries was signed into law on April 23, 2019,  by Governor Janet Mills. The bill was enacted unanimously in both the House and the Senate.

    “We had a grant a couple of years ago that paid for devices people could check out of the local library and have wireless internet service in their homes,” Rep. Alley said. “This was a great benefit to people, especially students who don’t have regular access to the internet at home. Then the grant ran out.”

    The Maine State Library had partnered with the New York City Public Library to provide 80 of the devices to libraries in Maine to see how they would work in rural areas, including Washington County. The program was very popular, with waiting lists for the devices. The grant funding ran out in January, 2017. Alley’s bill makes the devices available again for another two years.

    The ConnectME Authority was established under the Baldacci administration with the intent on expanding acess to internet services across the state. While some of its efforts have been a great sucess, there is much more to do. Part of the problem is the lack of population in rural areas doesn't give companies incentives for expansion in those areas.

    Rep. Alley sponsored a similar bill in the last legislative session. The bill passed, but was vetoed by then-Governor Paul LePage. The House failed to override the veto.

    “It is still hard to access high speed internet in Washington County and elsewhere in rural Maine,” said Rep. Alley. “Hopefully local availability of internet service will be better here in two years, but if not, then maybe we can extend the program again.” 

    The measure, LD 147, “An Act To Extend Internet Availability in Rural Maine,” was an emergency measure and goes into effect immediately. It is not known when the devices will be available.

    Rep. Alley is serving his third term in the Maine House and represents Addison, Beals, Cherryfield, Columbia, Columbia Falls, Harrington, Jonesboro, Jonesport, Marshfield, Milbridge and Whitneyville. He's a Navy Veteran and member of the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands.

  • Students, organized labor tell lawmakers to support Maine’s Green New Deal

    By Ramona du Houx

    Students and representatives of organized labor were among the dozens of Mainers who turned out on April 23, 2019 to support a measure that promises Maine its own Green New Deal, modeled before the resolution in the U.S. Congress. U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree spoke at the event.

    "It's encouraging to see so many young activists, our future. They know we need to take action now, before it is too late," said Pingree, who was one of the first members of Congress to support the Green New Deal.

    According to federal and United Nation's reports the world only has 11.5 years to turn climate change around. Failure means mass extinctions of species, millions of deaths, migrations of vast numbers of people, probable increases in war zones, flooding and extreme weather conditions worldwide.

    Work under the Baldacci administration established a base line for an economy that would grow and flourish with green energy technologies, built and installed in Maine. LePage's administration rolled back some of those efforts. Now, citizens are looking to Governor Mills who told the students she's starting a special committee, with a young person on it, to investigate all the options. Rep. Maxmin has already heard from her constituents and is taking action.

    “This bill emerged from conversations with my constituents and reflects the urgent need for economic renewal in our rural counties. It grows out of the concerns that I hear in my district: the need for good jobs, lower property taxes and protecting our environment, upon which so much of Maine’s industry and culture depends,” said Rep. Chloe Maxmin, D-Nobleboro, the bill sponsor.

    In other states it has already been proven that green energy tech jobs, create good paying jobs while lowering energy costs to consumers.

    Maxmin’s proposal is the first state-level Green New Deal to be endorsed by the state AFL-CIO affiliate.

    “Our response to the climate crisis should serve as a means for job creation and economic and social justice,” Maine AFL-CIO Executive Director Matt Schlobohm told the committee. “Realistically, that will only happen if workers are at the table. We appreciate that this bill is rooted in that kind of framework.”

    The bill would require Maine to move to 80 percent renewable energy electricity consumption by 2040, support solar power for schools to reduce costs and create a Task Force for a Green New Deal that focuses on economic growth, job growth and renewable energy growth. It establishes an ongoing Commission on a Just Transition that is charged with ensuring the shift to a low-carbon economy benefits all residents fairly and equitably.

    Haley Maurice, a Bowdoin College student who helped organize Maine Youth for Climate Justice, was among the activists there to speak with lawmakers.

    “Today, hundreds of young people, as part of our first action led by Maine Youth for Climate Justice, are standing together, meeting with our elected officials and making known that our future, Maine’s future, needs to be protected without hurting others along the way,” Maurice testified at the bill’s public hearing.

    Jason Shedlock, executive director of the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council, highlighted the bill’s efforts to provide workforce training.

    “I rise in support of this legislation not only because it’s the right step forward in equipping Maine to meet the environmental demands of both the present and future but also because, in doing so, we can meet the workforce needs now and on the horizon as well,” Shedlock told members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

    The committee will hold a work session on the bill, LD 1282, in the coming days. At that time, members will have the opportunity to offer amendments and vote on a recommendation to the full Legislature.

    Maxmin is a first-term lawmaker who represents House District 88, which includes Chelsea, Jefferson and part of Nobleboro. She is a member of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.

  • Maine Legislature pushes to cut prescription drug prices

    On April 17, 2019, the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services held the second day of public hearings on the Senate Democrats’ prescription drug reform package. The Committee heard testimony on three bills from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to allow for the importation of safe, affordable prescription drugs from Canada and to create a drug affordability board.

    “Prescription drug prices are out-of-control in this state and in this country. The situation is pretty grim and the consequences are people’s lives,” said President Jackson. “It’s time for some basic oversight and accountability of those who, until now, have been driving up the cost of life-saving drugs to consumers just to line their own pockets.”

    The first bill — LD 1387, “An Act To Increase Access to Safe and Affordable Prescription Drugs” — would allow individuals to purchase prescription drugs from a Canadian pharmacy. According to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 8 percent of Americans or 19 million adults have purchased prescription medication in another country.

    The second bill — LD 1272, “An Act To Increase Access to Low-cost Prescription Drugs” — would set up a wholesale state importation program, similar to legislation that passed in Vermont last year.

    Prescriptions are often 30 percent cheaper for the same drug in Canada than the U.S. A study by the National Academy for State Health Policy estimates this proposal has the potential to save Vermont 1 to 5 million dollars per year on prescription drugs. 

    The final bill — LD 1499, An Act To Establish the Maine Prescription Drug Affordability Board — would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to provide oversight and set an upper payment limit for prescription drugs when necessary. Similar legislation passed through the State Legislature in Maryland earlier this month.

    “Lowering the cost of prescription drugs for Maine people isn’t a one-and-done effort. It’s going to take a thoughtful and aggressive strategy to drive down costs and ensure Mainers get a fair shake,” said President Jackson. “This is a bold package, but I hope that by passing these bills, Maine can bring relief the thousands among us who have been affected by an industry that’s been out of control for far too long.”

    On April 16, 2019, the Committee heard testimony on Sen. Heather Sanborn’s bill LD 1504, “An Act To Protect Consumers from Unfair Practices Related to Pharmacy Benefits Management” and Sen. Eloise Vitelli’s bill LD 1162, “An Act To Further Expand Drug Price Transparency.”

    In the U.S., one in four Americans struggles to pay for their prescription medication while one in ten Americans does not take their medicine as prescribed to stay afloat. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, about 200 bills have been filed in 42 state legislatures to address the cost of prescription drugs. Eighty-eight bills have to do with pharmacy benefit managers, 25 are related to wholesale importation and 13 are related to drug affordability review or rate setting.

    All five bills face additional work sessions in the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. The work session is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, April 24.

  • Holding up the Sky, a Maine Historical Society exhibit honoring the State's First Peoples


    At Maine Historical Society in Portland —

    April 17, 2019 
    By Ramona du Houx
    Maine Historical Society's (MHS)  new exhibition, Holding up the Sky, at their Portland gallery runs from April 12 to February 1, 2020. It honors and explores the experiences of the First People of Maine — the Wabanaki, which includes the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people. 
    Holding up the Sky explores Wabanaki philosophies of leadership and obligation relating to humans and non-humans by highlighting 13,000 years of Wabanaki residence in what is now known as Maine.
    Wabanaki advisors guided the exhibition, interpreting 17th century colonial treaties, photographs, heritage items, and contemporary artworks—everything from ash baskets to haute couture fashion. Wabanaki voices provide context for the present-day relevance and repercussions of 400 years of shared histories between Wabanaki people and immigrants to their region.

    “We believe that it is essential to explore, honor, and help all Mainers better understand the 13,000-year experience of the Wabanaki and their strong continued presence in Maine as the state prepares to commemorate its Bicentennial in 2020,” said Steve Bromage, MHS executive director. “Their story and our shared history provide the foundation for understanding Maine statehood, the context for key issues that shape Maine today, and perspective that will help us plan a future that draws on the strength of all Maine people.” 

    The exhibition is built around the voices and perspectives of Wabanaki people and is being developed in collaboration with a team of advisors, including:
    • Lisa Brooks (Abenaki),
    • James Francis (Penobscot),
    • Suzanne Greenlaw (Maliseet),
    • Darren Ranco (Penobscot),
    • Theresa Secord (Penobscot),
    • Ashley Smith (Wabanaki descent), and
    • Donald Soctomah (Passamaquoddy).

    The exhibit explores Wabanaki philosophies of leadership and obligation and will consider thousands of years of life in “Maine” places prior to the arrival of Europeans, and the complex relationships that have evolved since Europeans settled here.

    In addition to items from Maine Historical Society collections and newly commissioned pieces by Wabanaki artists, the exhibition will feature artifacts loaned by many individuals and organizations, including: Abbe Museum, Hudson Museum, Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Maine State Museum, Nova Scotia Museum, and Bangor Historical Society.
  • Gov. Mills signs legislation to promote pay equality

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    April 12, 2019, the 100th day ot Governor Janet Mills in office, she signed legislation to promote pay equality. LD 278, was sponsored by Senator Cathy Breen,( on Mills's right in the photo). The measure promotes pay equality by discouraging employers from basing wages on an employee’s salary history. It passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature.  

    “Maine is a better place when we strive to ensure that all citizens are treated equally and fairly. By working to see that all people are paid based not on prior compensation, but on their experience, their abilities, and their qualifications, we can help level the playing field for women across Maine and enhance their economic security,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This is good public policy and it is the fair and right thing to do.” 

    “The gender wage gap exists despite statutes and rules that prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of gender, and despite the good intentions of so many employers, human resource professionals, and advocates,” said Senator Breen.“As policy makers, it’s up to us to do all we can to narrow and someday eliminate the wage gap between Maine women and men. I’m proud of the work we were able to do on LD 278 – it’s the right thing to do for Maine women and Maine taxpayers.”

    LD 278 An Act Regarding Pay Equality prohibits an employer from asking about a prospective employee’s prior wage or salary information until after an offer of employment has been made to the prospective employee, with exceptions included for federal and state law that require the disclosure of compensation history for specific employment purposes. Research shows that men with a bachelor’s degree make on average 20 percent more than their female classmates after just one year of employment. As a result, employers can perpetuate the wage gap by basing wages on salary history and not experience and qualifications.

    In Maine, women make 82 cents for every dollar men make while, nationally, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, together losing more than $900 billion a year because of the gender wage gap. In the U.S., the average woman has to work 15 months to earn what the average man earned in 2018 for 12 months of work. The gender pay gap is far starker for women of color. African American women make 61 cents on the dollar, Native American women make 58 cents on the dollar, and Latinas just 51 cents on the dollar compared to white, non-Hispanic men.

  • Maine forth in nation for property tax burden - in top five for highest overall tax burden

    By Ramona du Houx

    A report released April 9, 2019 by the personal-finance website WalletHub shows Maine as having the third highest overall tax burden of the 50 states, and the forth higest property tax burden. With 1.3 million people, of whom live well below the American average income of 50K, for most of the nation it would be hard to see how Maniers meet needs.

    WalletHub's 2018 Tax Burden by State report compared the 50 states according to their property taxes, individual taxes and sales and excise taxes as a share of total personal income. Unlike tax rates, which vary widely based on an individual's circumstances, tax burden measures the proportion of total personal income that residents pay toward state and local taxes.

    Here's how Maine ranked in those tax burden comparisons (1=Highest, 25=Average):

    • 3rd — Overall tax burden (11.02%)
    • 4th — Property tax burden (4.80%)
    • 15th — Individual income tax burden (2.69%)
    • 24th — Total sales and excise tax burden (3.53%).

    New York has the highest overall tax burden at 13.04%, while Alaska, at 4.94%, had the lowest, according to WalletHub's report.

    Only New Hampshire (1), Vermont (2) and New Jersey (3) ranked higher than Maine in the property tax burden comparison.

    he primary reason that the tax burden went up during the Lepage Administration is because the State took money from middle class homeowners by cutting revenue sharing - mainly education and giving it to the wealthiest 1 percent. Tax reform for middle class families should mean tax relief.

    Under the Baldacci Administration the average mil rate was $12.78. Under the LePage adminstration they went up to $15.64.

    Here are figures from the Maine Center for Economic Policy from 2015 showing the dramatic rise in property taxes because of the cuts by Lepage policies to all of Maine's 400 + municipalities:

    Facts & Figures

    • $23,000 – Average tax cut for Top 1 percent under LePage budget
    • 80 percent - of Maine families seeing a tax increase under LePage budget
    • $15.64 – Average mil rate for Maine communities in 2015
    • $12.78 – Average mil rate for Maine communities in 2010
    • $1,000,000,000 – Amount of property taxes needed to compensate for state underfunding local education, since 2011
    • 69 percent –  of homeowners in Maine below the age of 65
    • 213,000 – Number of homeowners losing their Homestead Exemption under LePage budget
    • $313 – Average property tax reduction from the Homestead Exemption.
  • CMP corridor’s climate claims are doubtful - we need DEP independent review

    Op-ed by  J. Mason Morfit is a resident of Freeport. First in Portland Press

    Mainers are increasingly anxious about climate change and the adverse effects it’s already bringing: more violent weather, warmer and more acidic seas threatening our fisheries, increased flooding and erosion along our coast, the spread of Lyme and other insect-borne diseases, invasive bugs destroying our forests, ticks eating our moose, etc. And if they’ve read journalist David Wallace-Wells’ “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming” (currently No. 3 on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list), they’re probably scared silly by what the future holds, as they should be.

    Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, the principal driver of climate change, is something we need to start doing now, and big time, if we want to protect ourselves, our children and our grandchildren from a world we don’t want to (and may not be able to) live in. To quote the first line of the book, “It is worse, much worse, than you think.”

    So, many people may have initially been inclined to favor the New England Clean Energy Connect project being proposed by Central Maine Power and Hydro-Quebec. This 145-mile electrical transmission line would run from western Maine on the Canadian border to a substation in Lewiston, where it would connect to the regional grid. While the transmission line would cut a big, ugly swath through Maine, all the power would go to customers in Massachusetts.

    CMP and Hydro-Quebec state that NECEC will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by importing supposedly “clean” hydropower from Quebec. But that hydropower would be clean (i.e., reduce greenhouse-gas emissions) only if it were new – in addition to hydropower that Hydro-Quebec is already generating or could be expected to generate in the normal course of business. Such power is called “incremental” power. 

    But according to testimony on behalf of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, as well as a study by the international consulting firm Energyzt, the contracts that Massachusetts utilities have signed with Hydro-Quebec contain no legal stipulations that would require Hydro-Quebec to deliver all incrementally clean power all the time. Hydro-Quebec could buy cheap power from other suppliers on its extended system who are using coal or gas, both “dirty” sources, and sell it at a premium to Massachusetts. (Such money-making arbitrage is Hydro-Quebec’s stated practice.)

    Or it could reduce exports of clean power to other customers in its system, requiring those customers to buy dirty power elsewhere. Obviously, if you simply shuffle the location of greenhouse-gas emissions from one location to another, there has been no global reduction in climate-changing pollution. To claim otherwise is to engage in what’s known as “greenwashing.” 

    It’s instructive that, even if we buy CMP’s allegations that all the Hydro-Quebec power sent to NECEC will be squeaky clean, CMP claims only that greenhouse-gas emissions would be reduced in New England, not on a global basis, which is required to reduce the risks of climate change. (Contrary to what some of us might like to believe, New England does not exist in a self-contained bubble, atmospheric or otherwise.) 

    Unfortunately, the Maine Public Utilities Commission appears not to have devoted a lot of attention to the Massachusetts contracts that would permit Hydro-Quebec to follow a profit maximization strategy and send supposedly “clean” power to Massachusetts ratepayers. Nor does it appear to have acknowledged that, even if Hydro-Quebec sends truly incremental clean power to New England, it doesn’t necessarily achieve a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions on a global basis – and it may cause them to increase.

    Dozens weigh in on whether to study greenhouse gas impact of CMP power line

    That’s why Maine voters should support a bill recently introduced by state Sen. Brownie Carson. L.D. 640 would require the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to conduct an independent investigation of CMP’s claims that the proposed transmission line would have benefits for the climate through reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.

    It’s essential that Maine (and Massachusetts) citizens find out whether NECEC will, in fact, significantly reduce the carbon pollution that’s changing our climate. If not, we’re not only having the wool pulled over our eyes by people who stand to make a lot of money by doing so, but we’re also in the very dangerous position of thinking we’re taking a positive step to help solve the climate crisis when, actually, we’re not. Deception is dangerous, but self-deception can be disastrous.

  • Maine State Library to Host Music Program - Outside Looking In

    04/04/2019 09:32 AM EDT

     The Maine State Library will host an afternoon program with songwriter, guitarist and poet Mike Rogers on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 from 1:00 - 2:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public. 

    The 78 year-old, blind entertainer has been performing for over 45 years and has recorded on more than 40 albums. He has opened for Emmy Lou Harris, Tom Rush, The Eagles, James Montgomery and others. He and his wife, Beverly, represented Maine and Georgia at the 1999 International Very Special Arts Conference in Los Angeles and his folk group, Salt River. He also represented Maine at the New England Artists Conference in 2000. For this show, Mike will be joined by his wife to add poems and some vocal harmony, and his friend and band mate, Dan MacLellan on bass and vocal back-up.

    Rogers' performances are laced with his wry humor, painting portraits of people "outside the circle" in song, story-telling and poetry. Sometimes edgy, sometimes gentle, his characters are all real people from his journey through life and he places emphasis on understanding and accepting others. Mike accompanies himself on his guitar and his signature harmonica. His comfort with his audience comes from 15 years of teaching high school as well as the music business. 

    "The Maine State Library is thrilled to host this event as part of our month-long celebration of libraries across Maine," said James Ritter, State Librarian. Mike's unique performance captures the essence of storytelling and poetic inspiration. We are pleased to have him."

    For more information, call the Maine State Library at 207-287-5600.
  • HOPE: A Benefit Concert for Through These Doors & Preble Street, homeless shelter

    4/1/2019 Portland, Maine. 

    benefit concert for Through These Doors and Preble Street will take place on Thursday, May 02 at seven o’clock in the evening at Woodfords Church.

    This concert, comprised of volunteers and professionals, aims to raise awareness and money for these two charities that serve the least-favored population in Maine.

    The conductor and organizer of the concert, Chris Pelonzi, said he hopes to bring high-quality music to the Portland community for a good cause. Mr. Pelonzi is currently a student of Dr. Nicolas Dosman in the Graduate Choral Conducting program at the University of Southern Maine, and must give a conducting recital to complete his degree.

    However, rather than produce a small concert specifically for the auspices of a degree program, Mr. Pelonzi has organized a concert for a greater one.

    “Every day we see those without a home, and we hear about those who lost their family because of abuse…all I want to do is help make a change in our community so that these people can get the help they need. This is just one way to make a graduate degree most relevant to our local community," said Pelonzi.

    The concert will have a choir of over fifty voices, and an orchestra of more than thirty, all performing works by Hildegard, Arvo Part, Mozart, Beethoven, and Karl Jenkins. Featuring Soprano Susanna Moliski, Counter-tenor Chris Garrepy, Tenor Martin Lescault, Mezzo Andrea Graichen, Baritone Scott Wheatley, and Bass John Adams alongside with the choir and orchestra.

    The concert is intended to inspire hope and social change with pieces from all ages and in multiple languages. A brief talk about Preble Street and Through These Doors will be given at intermission along with an inspiring story.

    Thanks to the generosity of Woodfords Church, the University of Southern Maine, and many others, the concert will be held in Portland on May second at Woodfords Church.

    It is open to the public and tickets are available online from brownpapertickets. For more information, please follow the event on facebook.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Maine's Governor Mills Announces Federal Approval of Medicaid Expansion

     

     Governor Janet Mills announced on April 2, 2019 hat the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved Maine’s State Plan Amendments to expand Medicaid (MaineCare) under the Affordable Care Act. CMS notified the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of the approval today.

    CMS approved the state’s plan retroactive to July 2, 2018, which was the date indicated in the 2017 ballot initiative supported by nearly 60 percent of Maine voters. MaineCare expansion is projected to provide coverage to approximately 70,000 people throughout the state. With today’s approval, the federal government will finance more than $800 million in estimated costs for those who enroll under expansion from July 2, 2018 through state fiscal year 2021. Maine is among 36 states plus the District of Columbia that have expanded Medicaid.

    “This approval marks the culmination of a long-overdue effort to fulfill the will of Maine voters and help tens of thousands of people access health care,” said Governor Janet Mills. “The benefits of expansion – including this injection of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds – will extend to rural hospitals, to businesses, and to our economy as a whole. In the coming months, my Administration will work with partners across the state to ensure that those who qualify enroll and receive the health care they need to live heathy lives and remain in the workforce.”

    “We are gratified to learn that CMS has formally accepted our plan for expanding Medicaid in Maine,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “We appreciate our partnership with CMS and its regional office, and will continue our efforts to reach all those eligible for Medicaid to ensure Mainers everywhere have access to affordable, quality health care.”

    Maine voters passed a referendum in November of 2017 directing the state to expand MaineCare. The new law required Maine DHHS to adopt rules to implement the program and grant coverage no later than July 2, 2018. Governor Mills, in her first executive order, instructed DHHS to swiftly and efficiently begin implementation of expansion. In a separate letter, Governor Mills also asked CMS to approve the State Plan Amendments filed by the previous administration, which Maine DHHS corrected to reflect the July 2, 2018 effective date. 

    State Plan Amendments detail how a state operates its Medicaid program and are sent to CMS for review and approval. 

    MaineCare started covering enrollees newly eligible under the expansion in January of 2019. With this approval, CMS has started sending notices to low-income people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov that they may now be eligible for Medicaid. The Wilton call center will start taking calls in mid-April to answer questions about the MaineCare expansion. 

    As of March 29th, 16,797 individuals have been granted Medicaid coverage under expansion. DHHS has processed all of the applications of those who applied between July 2, 2018 and January 2, 2019.

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