Help for Those in Need

From my August 15th post to the Facebook page:

One of the common threads I'm hearing as I'm visiting residents of the district is an emphasis for support for the elderly, disabled, and poor. The elderly make up a significant portion of the population in our region and we are certainly no strangers to poverty with schools averaging above 50% free and reduce lunch rates.

One person recently expressed displeasure with the fairness in application of laws and supports and how a person in need of assistance might get different results based on their gender. This concern wasn't about medical assistance specifically, but across a spectrum of services.

Another person back in June lamented how a family member who was eligible for assistance to replace a furnace ended up waiting out the winter with no heat before the agency that runs the program was able to make good on their promises.

Another individual related a pre-COVID story of a person on dialysis who subsequently developed cancer. Because the process to get assistance with cancer treatment took too long, she passed away before anything could be done to help her with it.

Like all money the State of Maine spends, funding for benefit programs is derived from taxes and it is the State's responsibility to ensure that the money it collects is spent for the maximum gain of those it is intended to help. So to that end, it is important that benefit programs have structure and accountability and this means some degree of paperwork and process. But these programs also need to be responsive enough to help people with life or death situations. Going a winter without a working furnace can easily mean life or death. Going a year without treatment for a serious condition no less.

Further, in a society that claims to value equality as ours does, there should be no reason that anyone should be treated differently under the law, or should receive varying amounts of aid when requirements for that aid are equally met.

I believe we have many good programs in place to assist people who may need help temporarily or long-term. The recent MaineCare expansion helped to reduce the number of people who were uninsured and provided them with something more than they previously had. Fortunately, for seniors who have had a homestead for 10 years, they will now be able to freeze their property taxes from future increases. While perhaps not perfect, changes like this will help to ensure people don't get taxed out of their longtime homes.

Even with gasoline prices trending gently downward at the moment, heating oil will likely spike up more than typical this winter heating season. That and the current rate of inflation will mean that more people will have difficulty making ends meet and that there will be increased reliance on assistance and welfare across the spectrum. I hope to work with other legislators to ensure that we remain committed to the programs we have, to ensure that they are sufficient for the people who need them, and importantly, work to improve their efficiency, so that those eligible and in need of help do not have to wait until it is too late for that aid to matter.