Gratwick bill repeals section of general assistance law

Posted: April 10, 2017 | Senator Gratwick

AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor, would repeal a law requiring those released from correctional facilities to apply for general assistance from the town they lived in prior to incarceration.

The bill — LD 221, “An Act To Amend the Laws Regarding the Municipality of Responsibility for General Assistance Applicants Released from a State Correctional Facility or County Jail Facility” — was among several bills dealing with general assistance that received a public hearing before the Health and Human Services Committee on Monday.

The General Assistance program, or GA provides last-resort, emergency assistance for housing and other essential needs to families with children at immediate risk of destitution or homelessness. A law passed last year dictated that any individuals released from a state correctional facility applying for GA within within 45 days of their release can receive benefits only from the town they resided in prior to incarceration.

Sen. Gratwick noted that while most GA administrators supported this legislation when it passed, it has proven to be cumbersome and ineffective in many ways — namely that applying for benefits over long distances creates unnecessary hurdles for applicants.

“The needs of men and women released from incarceration are immediate,” said Gratwick. “They need housing, food, and other basic necessities required to reestablish themselves in the community. It’s essential that this population gets back on its feet quickly. Otherwise, recidivism is likely. Current law has made it very difficult, if not impossible to provide GA assistance in a timely fashion.”

Gratwick brought the bill at the request of Rindy Fogler from the City of Bangor Public Health and Community Services and the Maine Welfare Directors’ Board. Fogler spoke in support of the measure at the public hearing.

“Many rural communities have limited hours of operation for their GA programs. Because of this, they are unable to complete a GA application for the individual in a timely fashion,” said Fogler. “There are many hurdles that make it extremely difficult to provide assistance within an acceptable time period.”

LD 221 faces further action in the Health and Human Services Committee and votes in the House and Senate.