Budget committee unanimously votes to fund Jackson nursing home bill
AUGUSTA — A bill sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson, of Allagash, to fund Maine’s nursing homes was finally approved as part of an essential spending package in the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee on Monday.
The bipartisan spending package – LD 925, “An Act Making Certain Appropriations and Allocations and Changing Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government” – combines several bills that went unresolved when the Legislature adjourned prematurely in May.
“In Maine, we talk a lot about taking care of our seniors but words only go so far,” said Sen. Jackson. “In passing this unanimous, bipartisan spending package, the Maine Legislature is doing right by the people, who raised a whole generation of Mainers by making sure they get the quality care they need and that the providers who care for them can earn a fair wage.”
Sen. Jackson introduced the original bill – LD 1466, “An Act To Address Severe and Ongoing Shortfalls in the Funding of Direct Care Workers in Long-term Care Settings and To Establish the Commission To Study Long-term Care Workforce Issues”- to address the short and long-term challenges facing nursing home and long-term care facilities in the state. It used state and federal Medicaid dollars to fund a 10 percent increase in wages and benefits across the long-term care workforce and creates a study group to determine how the Legislature can avert this problem in the future.
The spending package also included funding for the opioid epidemic, assisted-living facilities and behavioral and mental health care. Late last month, the committee considered and passed a narrow $26.4 million spending package to fund county jails and maintain modest pay raises for direct care workers to avoid a crisis. The full Legislature must now pass these spending bills before the end of the fiscal year on July 1.
“It has been a frustrating few weeks but I’m glad the budget committee could finally reach an agreement on the issues that matter to Mainers. Now it’s time for the Legislature to quickly return to Augusta and finish the work for the people of Maine.”
Other unfinished work that remains before the Legislature includes administrative funding for Medicaid expansion, tax conformity, school funding, infrastructure investments, and a number of other bond proposals.
Lawmakers will consider these spending packages and remaining legislation should the Legislature reconvene for a special session. The Legislature can only return for a special session if a majority of lawmakers in each caucus agree to come back to Augusta. Legislative leaders will begin polling their members this week.