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AARP Maine Expects Policy Changes with New Administration

Gov.-elect Janet Mills, who most recently served as Maine's attorney general, is already familiar with such issues as the debt industry's impact on older consumers. (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau/Wikimedia Commons)
Gov.-elect Janet Mills, who most recently served as Maine's attorney general, is already familiar with such issues as the debt industry's impact on older consumers. (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau/Wikimedia Commons)
December 11, 2018

PORTLAND, Maine — AARP Maine is thinking ahead to the New Year and a new administration as it sets priorities for helping seniors across the state - including with more affordable housing.

Gov.-elect Janet Mills, a Democrat, said she wants to release the $15 million housing bond that voters approved in 2015 to create more low-cost housing for seniors. Gov. Paul LePage had refused to release the bond, claiming there was no guarantee the money would go toward affordable housing rather than for-profit developers.

Amy Gallant, advocacy director with AARP Maine, said the $15 million is a good first step, but a far cry from the original senior housing plan.

"Initially, the estimate was $60 million,” Gallant said. “What can we do to build a bridge between $15 million and $60 million?"

Maine is known to have the oldest overall population of any state. But fewer people may be aware that about 1-in-3 older Mainers lives only on Social Security income - which averages $13,000 a year, according to the Maine Council on Aging.

Gallant said more money is necessary to meet the needs of the state's aging population, including funds to help repair older homes.

"We're the eighth-oldest housing stock,” she said. “So, people are living in old homes that maybe have been converted to apartments, but maybe not. Maybe it's a single person or a couple who raised kids in a big home and are still living there."

She said AARP Maine also wants to advance long-term care system reform. Last session, the group supported a bill by Republican Rep. Patrick Corey to pay caregivers for Medicaid recipients by reimbursing them through Medicaid. It passed, but then wasn't funded through the appropriations process.

Gallant said she’s optimistic it can be re-introduced in the new session.

"Rep. Patrick Corey has a great bill,” she said. “And we've been in conversations about how to support that bill again."

Governor-elect Janet Mills will be sworn into office in January. More information from AARP is available at AARP.org.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - ME