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Gov. Janet Mills won’t allow nursing home funding bill to pass

Governor Janet Mills stands in front of her office and the wall where messages from the Governor, such as the one referenced here, could be posted.

AUGUSTA – A bill that was passed unanimously by the Maine House and Senate to provide additional funding to help Maine nursing homes and residential care facilities in the face of a rising minimum wage and tight labor market will not become law anytime soon.

In a statement highlighting a new wave of bills she had signed, Gov. Mills announced that the bill to provide better pay for nursing home workers would not go into effect.

Using a procedural move called a “hold”, Gov. Mills will essentially keep the bill in a static position, neither signing nor vetoing it.

Typically, if a Governor does not sign or veto a bill within 10 days, it becomes law without the Governor’s signature. Because of Gov. Mills’ hold, she will now wait until the start of the next legislative session to decide what to do with the bill.

Seven nursing homes have closed across Maine over the past two years, largely due to funding issues that this bill, L.D. 1758, originally sought to fix. With labor costs and inflation rising, reimbursement rates have not been keeping up with costs. Additionally, with Maine’s tight job market driving wages higher, keeping workers at nursing homes has become increasingly difficult.

Nursing homes that have closed in the past 24 months were located in: Bar Harbor; Patten; Jonesport; Freeport; West Paris; Bridgton and Fryeburg.

Now, it appears, Maine nursing homes could be left waiting another six months just to learn of Mills’ decision on a bill that would address one small part of the problem.

The bill was pared down from the original version introduced, with additional funding stripped out until the fiscal note, or cost, of the bill was just over $1 million over the coming two year period to provide supplemental wage payments to workers at nursing home and residential care facilities.

The cost of this bill is now less than 8% of the amount House Democrats voted to spend providing welfare benefits to non-citizens over the next two years.

“The Legislature has passed a significant number of bills this session, and I take seriously my constitutional obligation to thoroughly review all of them, evaluate their implications, and decide whether they are in the best interest of Maine people, ” said Governor Mills. “In order to meet that responsibility, I will continue to review these bills and gather more information, and I look forward to acting on them at the beginning of the next legislative session. “

Gov. Mills noted in her statement that she has signed more than 600 bills this legislative session. That may be little consolation to workers at nursing homes who were awaiting word on Mills’ decision on L.D. 1758.

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