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With nursing home funds on hold, Gov. Mills adds unauthorized “Diversity” manager at DHHS

Governor Janet Mills celebrates getting a flu shot on October 2, 2019.

AUGUSTA – There is no “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager” provided for in Maine’s newly passed state budget, but that didn’t stop Governor Janet Mills from creating one “within” the office of DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. The announcement was made quietly on the DHHS website on November 6.

The new diversity manager will begin work on December 9th and work from the commissioner’s office. Two individuals with deep knowledge of state budgets past and present have confirmed to Maine Examiner that the position is not funded in the state budget – meaning Governor Mills is likely using funds from the DHHS budget that were originally meant for some other purpose to fund the position.

Word of the new position being added is sure to rankle advocates for Maine’s nursing homes and disabled Mainers on waiting lists. Republicans recently began a new push to pressure Governor Janet Mills to release funds provided for nursing homes earlier this year following a series of nursing home closings.

Disabled Mainers on waiting lists to receive state services have also been left languishing, despite nearly $1 billion in new state spending under Mills’ new state budget.

Mills’ spending at DHHS on other priorities has come under fire while nursing homes and Mainers with disabilities are on the back burner. Mills provided emergency funds for some illegal immigrants who arrived in Portland over the summer as “asylum seekers” although the data shows most will not be granted asylum status.

The Portland crisis resulted from an attempt by now-ousted Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling publicly calling for more non-citizens to be sent to Portland to show up President Donald Trump during the southern border crisis.

Mills’ DHHS Chief, Jeanne Lambrew, also drew criticism recently. Lambrew testified before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee without providing a single piece of financial data among the twenty pages of handouts.

“DHHS is the state’s largest agency, with a biennial budget of more than $8 Billion state and federal funds, with 2,932 employees. Until only the past few years, DHHS has had a long history of running in the red. Keeping track of how fast DHHS is spending and whether DHHS is on budget is critical for managing the state’s fiscal health.”

“One would expect that when the DHHS Commissioner presents to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, she would talk about her agency’s finances. That isn’t what happened last week,” said a Facebook post from the non-profit Maine People Before Politics.

The group provided an itemized list of some of the things Lambrew did not provide specific financial data on. That list includes the “hundreds” of new workers the Mills administration says it is hiring at DHHS and for failing to lay out the costs of the “unbudgeted” general assistance and welfare benefits for non-citizens.

A statement from DHHS says the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager will lead efforts to “develop a workforce of diverse talent and promote an equitable and inclusive work environment.”

DHHS already employs more women than men among the nearly 3,000 workers at the agency.

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