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Enough is Enough: SSI and an apartment to die for

By Mayor Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

During my career with the Lewiston Police Department, my partner and I were assigned to investigate a horrendous conflagration that destroyed or damaged 11 buildings in the Knox, Birch and Bates Streets area of Lewiston. Our prime suspect fled to Portland, trying to blend in amongst his relatives and acquaintances in order to become invisible.

We spent an entire week in Portland interviewing witnesses and trying to track down our suspect. Our investigation took us into neighborhoods that made many of Lewiston’s poorer neighborhoods appear to be high-rent districts.

Interview after interview were conducted in filthy apartments, sporting the latest in lay-about décor: little or no furniture, a table strewn with cigarette butts, ashtrays and liquor bottles, a state-of-the-art TV with a game box surrounded by large comfortable chairs. Many even had their own personal alarm/protection system—a large vicious dog. Add to this the aromatic scent of dog feces mixed with the faint whisper of urine; in their world, this was an apartment to die for!

With the exception of a few of our suspect’s elderly relatives, most of our interviews involved males and females in their twenties. All seemed to be united by a common thread: state aid. Especially notable were the young SSI crowd. When asked if they worked, they replied “No.” When asked if they were on unemployment or welfare, they would immediately reply in an emphatic, indignant tone: “No, I’m on SSI!”

(Supplemental Security Income—SSI—is a federal government program that provides stipends to low-income people who are either 65 or older, blind or disabled.)

Upon completing our week of interviews, we stopped by the DA’s office in Auburn to update them on our investigation. Parking our vehicle on Court Street during a late rainy Friday afternoon, we came in contact with a person who was affectionately known to most members of the Lewiston Police Department. He was a resident of one of the John F. Murphy Homes. We inquired where he was going in the pouring rain, and he replied that he was on his way to his 40-hour-a-week janitorial job at the Department of Human Services.

For those who may not be familiar with the Murphy Homes, they are dedicated to helping our society’s most vulnerable population—our mentally retarded. These are truly God’s children. Unlike many, whose personal choices throughout life require them to seek state aid to survive, clients served by the Murphy Homes were born into their situation. The excellent work done by the program’s staff enables residents to live productive lives and contribute to society, unlike many others being provided state aid.

Our state’s current fiscal problems are not the fault of Governor Paul LePage. He has displayed strength, backbone, realism and fiscal sense, which was lacking in many of our past chief executives. Speaking of lacking, we also have two legislative bodies that refuse to display the aforementioned traits.

When dealing with cuts to social aid for the mentally ill, the elderly and those with severe disabilities that legitimately—and the key word is “legitimately”—prohibits them from working, this should be very clear: they should be exempt from any cuts. However, all other categories of state dependents should be subject to cuts.

Has anyone ever pondered why these people are poor, while many of their peers thrive?

Is the person standing before the state intake worker a high school graduate?

If your life choices lead you to become addicted to alcohol and drugs, why should the taxpayers assume responsibility for your bad choices?

Why should taxpayers be forced to assume parental responsibilities for the children whose parents’ bad choices have created this situation? Shouldn’t that be the responsibility of the parents and their families?

If those on state aid are truly indigent, then where does the money for tattoos and body piercings come from?

We have reached a point in our state where our career politicians have developed the skills of bureaucrats, enabling them to navigate the complexity of state and federal rules and regulations. Unfortunately, this knowledge has been gained at the expense of the taxpayers because our career politicians have become oblivious to simple and correctable daily concerns that govern our lives.

Thanks to our career politicians, state taxes will fall, but local taxes will rise and municipal services will decrease.

 

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4 Responses to “Enough is Enough: SSI and an apartment to die for”

  • Robert Deschenes:

    if lewiston stopped ssi on all the people that can work their budget would be in the black for years to come. I live in princeton and gave a ride to a somalian and his girlfriend to calais so they could catch the bus to go to lewiston. He told me that his motger, father, sister and most of his other friends/relatives all lived on SSI. they had come here to the states and never worked. they also got food stamps. just isn’t right.

  • Robert Deschenes:

    ya got to reset your clocks it is 5:48 PM not 6:48 PM

  • Crystal Bond:

    You made quite a jump there from talking about recipients of SSI benefits which are funded by the federal Social Security Administration to talking about people getting “state aid.” SSA is federal. They have very rigid standards for who qualifies for benefits. People who are alcoholics or drug abusers do not qualify on those “disabilities” alone. They must show severe mental or physical health problems. And their disabilities are re-evaluated on a regular basis. It’s sad that these folks must be required to prove to every individual they come into contact with, why they meet the disability standard. Administrators have gone over their alleged disabilities with a fine tooth comb. In many of the cases, an Administrative Law Judge has done the same. After great time spent reviewing doctor reports they have been found to be disabled and eligible for SSI benefits. Yet, you having spent 10 minutes with them, find they are not deserving because you disagree with the way they have spent their income.

    Kudos to the young man with Mental Retardation who holds down a 40 hour a week job. However, who appointed you to be the judge of who is deserving and who isn’t. That is an important role that requires education and training and attention to the rules governing a particular program.

    You go on to talk about career politicians at the state level. Are you aware that there are time limits in Maine that prevent career politicians in our state legislature?

    You ask: “Why should taxpayers be forced to assume parental responsibilities for the children whose parents’ bad choices have created this situation? Shouldn’t that be the responsibility of the parents and their families?” I think most of us agree that yes, indeed, that should be the responsibility of the parents and their families. However, when those parents and families don’t step up and take responsibility, would you have us throw the children onto the street?

    I agree that Enough is Enough. I’ve had enough of narrow minded people who think they should be the judge of who is deserving, who is disabled, who is truly needy, and who isn’t. I have enough of selfish people who are so afraid that someone might be getting something they don’t deserve, they are willing to create a public furor against all who need help. I’ve had enough of families who are so ashamed of having to rely on any type of government aid that they feel they have to join in the bashing of their neighbors who also get that government aid. I’ve had enough of people who can’t find within themselves a little compassion for someone less fortunate than themselves who haven’t had the upbringing and opportunities that allow them to see that the apartments you describe, though possibly so much better than what they’ve endured in the past, is not an apartment to die for.

    • Dawn Hodsdon:

      ‘scuse me but it is NOT selfish to insist that our hard earned dollars, Federal or State, be used to provide excellent services to those who can’t, rather than squandered by those who won’t. This is not a new concept: “The best way to help the poor is to make them uncomfortable in their poverty–– Benjamin Franklin”

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