AUGUSTA – Republican leaders say funding for nursing homes across the state has been jeopardized by Democratic lawmakers refusal to take action in the 126th Legislature.
Although the Legislature did pass bipartisan legislation that provides funding for nursing homes, that money does not become available under current law until July of next year.
That’s not soon enough to prevent the closure of some homes, according Senate Republican Leader Mike Thibodeau of Waldo and House Republican Leader Ken Fredette of Newport. The top Republicans in the Legislature want to convene a special session of the Legislature, but Senate President Justin Alfond (D-Portland) and House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick) have signaled unwillingness to do so.
In what may be the first shot of a battle over nursing home funding, Thibodeau and Fredette published an open letter to Eves and Alfond requesting that they address the issue as quickly as possible.
“As you are aware, Maine’s nursing homes are in the midst of an ongoing financial crisis that could force some of them to close in the near future,” they wrote. “The good news is that we in the Maine Legislature are in a position to take action to make these facilities solvent and, in some cases, keep their doors open. That is why we are dismayed at your reluctance to even discuss using money that is still available to benefit our elderly citizens until January 2015 when the 127th Legislature convenes.”
According to Fredette and Thibodeau, Republicans identified $5.1 million in available funding to support the nursing homes in the final days of the session. However, the Legislature failed to act on the proposal before it adjourned.
On May 5, after Republicans contacted them about the problem, Eves and Alfond sent a letter to lawmakers in which they said the Legislature would not reconvene unless “there is an ‘extraordinary occasion’ as referenced in the Maine Constitution.”
Republicans say the circumstances surrounding Maine’s nursing homes are extraordinary, “yet Senator Alfond has indicated he is unwilling to discuss it.”