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Senator Shenna Bellows silent on senior care closing in district – pushes “Spaceport”, political attacks and re-election instead

Senator Shenna Bellows poses for a picture with Governor Janet Mills. Photo courtesy Senator Shenna Bellows Facebook page.

AUGUSTA – When a major employer in her district announced it would close, leaving 600 elderly patients without needed services, you might have expected the region’s State Senator, Shenna Bellows, to issue a public statement or take some sort of action to try to stave off the closing. You would have been wrong.

The closing of Home Care for Maine in Farmingdale in late April was announced on January 30, 2020. According to a report by Maine Public, the closing was due to low state MaineCare reimbursement rates that no longer keep up with the rising state-mandated minimum wage. Home Care for Maine, a non-profit organization, says it is losing 50 cents per hour providing care and can’t stay in business like that.

Bellows has been an outspoken supporter of the mandated minimum wage increases and a reliable vote on Governor Janet Mills’ spending agenda, which has been criticized for not supporting nursing homes and services for the elderly.

While Senator Bellows has been silent related to the closing in public statements, her political social media accounts have been active. On Bellows’ political Twitter account, she has promoted her re-election kick-off and tweeted multiple times to attack President Donald Trump and about the Democratic Party’s Iowa Caucus process. Bellows has also taken shots at Senator Susan Collins. Collins beat Bellows in the 2014 U.S. Senate race by about 37 percentage points.

On Facebook, Bellows has also pushed out info about her campaign re-election and done a fair bit of self-promotion.

One day after Home Care for Maine announced they would be closing, Senator Bellows, still silent on the loss of services for 600 seniors, posted photos from a tour she had taken in support of her bill proposing Maine create a “Spaceport” at Brunswick Landing.

None of the documentation related to Spaceport indicates any region in Bellows’ district is under consideration for a Spaceport site. Brunswick Landing and Loring Commerce Centre are the most frequently mentioned locations.

Since then, she has posted photos with a variety of individuals, kicked off her re-election campaign, bragged about getting unanimous votes in committee on bills she has introduced and tweeted or retweeted numerous harsh criticisms at President Donald Trump and Senator Susan Collins.

On January 17th, less than two weeks before Home Care for Maine announced they would close, Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake was sounding the alarm over the dynamic that would prove fatal to Home Care for Maine’s model.

“Back in 2017, the state raised the minimum wage by $1.50 per hour. It has risen again three times since then. But the state has not sufficiently increased the reimbursement for Medicaid services to match the required increase in wages,” said Sen. Timberlake.

“Since most nursing homes care for Maine Medicaid patients, the state has essentially required these facilities to raise their wages without providing them an increase in their revenue to match it. As a result, many nursing homes have closed in the last two years and more will follow if the state does not raise the reimbursement rate to cover the mandatory wage increase.

Fortunately, there is a short-term solution to this problem. Since far fewer Mainers have signed up for the Medicaid expansion than anticipated, the Department of Health and Human Services has an excess of $31 million in Medicaid funds. This means there is more than enough money to cover the nursing home need, sitting in the bank and allocated for just this purpose,” Senator Timberlake urged in a weekly radio address.

Still, as of February 10th, Maine Examiner can find no public statement from Senator Bellows on the Home Care for Maine closing in her district or support for actions to prevent more closures in the future.

State Rep. Thom Harnett (D – Farmingdale) has also avoided a public statement on the matter. He too has been a strong supporter of Governor Janet Mills’ spending proposals.

Senator Shenna Bellows (D – Manchester) represents Maine Senate District 14, which includes: Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Manchester, Monmouth, Pittston, Randolph, Readfield, West Gardiner, and Winthrop.

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