By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Last Friday, a hearing was held at the Department of Health and Human Services, a meeting whose outcome will have a fiscal and economic impact on City of Lewiston taxpayers.
At issue is making several changes in the rules governing DHHS in order to bring them into compliance with federal and state programs.
Simply put, Maine cities and towns will no longer be forced by DHHS rules to help those who do not qualify for federal or state assistance. This change would allow Lewiston to save a considerable amount of money.
These savings could allow us to temporarily aid long-time Lewiston residents that might need temporary help to get over the bump in the road and back on their feet.
This would allow us funds to help an elderly couple or a disabled war veteran heat their home, put food on their table or purchase a needed medication. This would also help us provide assistance to a family where the breadwinner may have been involved in a non-work-related accident and is temporarily without a paycheck.
Then there are the mentally and physically disabled, who are truly in need of help, but are limited in what is provided them. But hey, not to worry, they don’t vote.
The changing of these rules will provide fiscal relief for the overly taxed citizens of Lewiston. This is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It should not be looked upon as a liberal vs. conservative issue. It is a fairness issue!
While Falmouth is able to use their tax money to build schools, we are forced to use our limited tax dollars to support the unemployable.
In order for the reader to understand our plight, below is a chart that breaks down aid given to three groups: asylum seekers; refugee and immigrants; and non-refugees (U.S. citizens).
The following numbers represent how much has been spent during our fiscal year, July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.
33-54 cases; 157 individuals. Average cost per case: $920.60; average cost per individual: $316.64.
These costs are kept down because of this group’s eligibility for federal programs.
Non Refugee: $660,275.49.
552 cases; 713 Individuals. Average cost per case: $1,196.15; average cost per individual: $926.05.
This group is made up of a mix of legitimate needy individuals and those who use it to maintain a lifestyle. Many do not qualify for state or federal assistance.
Asylum Pending: $103,432.94
33 cases; 85 Individuals. Average cost per case: $3,134.33; average cost per individual: $1,216.86.
This cost is considerably higher because they are not eligible for any federal or state assistance.
For the period of July 1, 2013 to December 27, 2013, we have spent:
26 cases; 59 individuals. Average cost per case: $541.56; average cost per Individual: $238.65.
Non Refugee: $273,821.93
302 cases; 404 Individuals. Average cost per case: $906.70; average cost per Individual: $677.78.
Asylum Pending: $59,549.13
39 cases; 103 Individuals. Average cost per case: $1,526.90; average cost per individual $578.15.
Note: From July 1, 2013 to December 27, 2013, New Asylum seekers totaled 20 cases, 50 Individuals.
To reiterate, asylum seekers receive no assistance from the state or federal government. In a meeting with the federal resettlement officials, we were advised that we were under no obligation to help them.
So why are we helping them? Because the State of Maine DHHS rules require us to. With the current proposed rule changes, expenses occurring to aid asylum seekers will be eliminated from our books.
It is time for us to stand united as a city and insist the DHHS rules be changed because, frankly, enough is enough. It is time for our state representatives to unite and stand up for the interests of Lewiston. Senator Margaret Craven is chair of the powerful Health and Human Services Committee. Representative Peggy Rotundo is a senior member of the powerful Appropriation Committee. It is time for them to use their clout to ensure the rules are changed.
In this year’s mayoral election, I crushed my opponent by standing up for the Lewiston taxpayers. Our state senator and our four representatives represent these same people. I would remind them that they were not elected to push the interests of the Maine People’s Alliance, Maine Equal Justice Partners, nor any other advocacy group whose interests are counter to the taxpayers of Lewiston.
The decision our senator and representatives are being asked to make is: Will you carry out the will of the Lewiston voters or will you march in lockstep with the social justice activist groups?