Welfare budget article going back to voters

RUMFORD — Only a handful of residents attended Thursday night's public hearing on the Board of Selectmen's second attempt to get town meeting voters to approve a state-required welfare budget.

Last month, a majority defeated recommendations of $70,021 by selectmen and the Budget Committee.

Selectmen pared it to $60,000. If that is defeated, Chairman Brad Adley said the process will be repeated until the article is passed “in some amount, as state law requires that the town have a welfare budget.”

Like they did at their previous board meeting last month, selectmen again sought to understand how Rumford's welfare system works, questioning Welfare Director Thelma Giberson at length. A few residents did likewise.

Based on their questions, selectmen were trying to learn if people are taking advantage of the system and steps Giberson takes to discover and prevent this from happening.

She said that from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, she had 171 applicants, some of whom applied more than once, creating 173 cases. Of those, Giberson said she only assisted 79 cases.

The majority were people living in Rumford. Only six were from out of state, although two had lived in Rumford, left, and returned.

She said that to be considered, all have to live in Rumford for at least six months and not have income.

Selectman Greg Buccina said he was concerned about people trying to take advantage of the town. Giberson quickly answered that if she finds the applicant has lied to her, they are suspended for 120 days. She said she faithfully checks with state agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that money is going to people in need.

Buccina then said that possibly residents rejected the initial budget because, like him, they were seeing many new faces walking town streets on a regular basis and becoming suspicious if they weren't heading to work.

“There's a general assumption that they're coming here to utilize the system,” Buccina said. “They're taking advantage of it.”

However, Giberson said many come to Rumford because it has plenty of low-income housing available and low rents.

“Landlords love to get people on Section 8, because they can get good money for their rents,” she said. “I see a lot of people from Lewiston-Auburn because of the Somalis there, and the poor people are taking a backseat and don't get along with the Somalis, so they move up here because rents are lower up here than down there.”

Resident Mitzy Sequoia said she voted for the welfare budget as presented, but came away with a more enlightened view after listening to Giberson detail how the system works. She then said selectmen should have explained it better on the ballot, and perhaps, a majority would have approved it.

“I think the people in Rumford are very loving, very giving and very supportive,” she said. “I've seen it many times.”

Town Manager Carlo Puiia said the new article will be voted on by secret ballot at the polls in Rumford Falls Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 13.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

"There is plenty of

"There is plenty of work"

Huh?

What planet are you from?

 's picture

Kevin, et.al.

I cringe every time I hear or read about “state reimbursements” for town welfare expenses. You said “…the state reimburses 1/2 of the welfare costs to the town as well as some of the administrative costs. The actual cost to the taxpayer is much less.” Where do you think the state gets the money to reimburse the municipalities?
I pay my municipal taxes out of this pocket on the right and my state taxes out of the pocket on the left but it’s the same pair of pants…
At some point in time most people need a hand because of things beyond their control. After a maximum of 30-days without a job the town should give them something to do in order to get one thin dime.
I’ll help anyone that is willing to help themselves but we all know someone that is an expert at using the system to provide them with all of life’s needs. There is plenty of work and anyone that can’t find a job on their own should be compelled to take one of these jobs even if it’s “beneath them.”
We can all be upset with the landlords and the fact that they are making money from Section 8 housing. It’s not their fault that the ‘system’ is so lucrative. Blame it on the people we continue to elect for various offices in Augusta and Washington. They are the real culprits but we still put them back in office.

 's picture

Not Alone

I recenntly paid a visit to the Rumford Town Manager's Office and though I didn't make as far as the Town Manager himself this time my money saving idea was abruptly and without questiion shotdown as usual. I shall put it to you folks along with a few others for your input and if you think they have merit to take them higher if you see fit. I agree that Rumford no longer has the population to justify a full-time welfare director, however, having a full-time person makes it posible for Rumford to have the most qualified person so we do not pay when we do not have to and lets us put recipients to work when without her we would lose that benefit. So how do we keep the full-time most qualified person and have recipients work? By sharing that person. Rumford has now shrunk to barely over 4000 people, about comperable with Mexico and Dixfield. With the loss of tax value in Rumford from the Mill and the power plant, Mexico's increase with Walmart and the shopping center and the mill in Dixfield we are getting very close to even all the way around. Right now Mexico is paying just $5000 towards Thelma's salary which is a real deal for them. Dixfield is trying to make due by having their clerks and Town manager cover. If Mexico, Dixfield, and Rumford split Thelma's salary and benefits evenly three ways she could handle the welfare for all three towns to the best benefit of all. Only those qualified would receive and she could send them to the paying town to work off what they receive which is a win for everyone. So what do you say Rumford, Mexico and Dixfield do we keep thelma and split the cost three ways and put all the welfare recipients to work or do we all pay more?
I have some other savings ideas for Rumford for another time.

 's picture

Sorry, Kevin

The way the town budget book reads, it looked like overseer of the poor was a part of the town officers and paid from that part of the town money. Thanks for correcting my mistake. I still don't believe that a full time person is needed, and, if the state reimburses towns at the same rate that they reimburse the medical facilities, we're in trouble.

 's picture

Bottom Line

This position is not needed full time. This program should be run out of the town managers office by appt. only 8 to 12 noon Tues. and Thurs. by one of the ladies in that office. It's time to for efficiency and less socialization within the town hall.

 's picture

Ed...

I meant her wages are part of her budget, not an additional cost.

 's picture

Ed...

You don't add the cost of her salary to the budget, you subtract it from her budget. Please remember that the state reimburses 1/2 of the welfare costs to the town as well as some of the administrative costs. the actual cost to the taxpayer is much less.

 's picture

If the State...

would adjust their rates to the area that the rental property is in then the landlords wouldn't be able to charge as much to regular tenants. Regardless of whether or not heat and hot water is included, no apartment in Rumford is worth $950.00 a month, even with 3 bedrooms.. You can buy a home here for half as much. It's a scam and everyone knows it, especially the landlords. The tenants who live in section 8 housing, meanwhile, reap the benefits of paying $30.00 per month for an apartment that a working person can't afford without having to make a choice between food or rent. The majority of non section 8 apartments in town aren't fit for habitation but if you're a working (stress on working) person who can't get a mortgage it's the only option you have.
Sooo... until there is some equity between what an apartment is actually worth and what the state will pay we are at an impasse. I do like the idea that someone has to be a resident for 6 months before they are eligible for aid from the town but it would be preferable if that aid had a time limit or at least a monetary limit of say, $500.00 per applicant in both food and rent help and a maximum number of cases (100).
I'll admit that I have taken advantage of the town welfare office myself, back when there were dinosaurs. There was a limit and people had to work at minimum wage for the town for as long as it took to pay what you received in aid.
I don't believe that a town the size of Rumford warrants a full time employee to handle welfare cases. If the requirements were made clear about who was eligible to apply and that all others would be summarily rejected, I'm sure that the case load would be dramatically reduced. Besides that, by her own admission, she only had 173 applications, of which 95 were rejected. 2080 hours per year as a full time employee is a lot of time to spend on paperwork for 79 people. That's probably around $30k a year in wages, so the actual cost of running the welfare office in Rumford is closer to $100,000.00 a year.
Finally, if you want to see a really messed up set of regulations that favor the applicant( no matter who it is or where he/she is from) rather than the municipality, take a look at these, right from the Maine. gov website: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/OIAS/services/general-assistance/index.html

 's picture

The landlords also get more

The landlords also get more money for Somali families than standard Section 8.

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

Landlords love to get people

Landlords love to get people on Section 8, because they can get good money for their rents,” she said. “I see a lot of people from Lewiston-Auburn because of the Somalis there, and the poor people are taking a backseat and don't get along with the Somalis, so they move up here because rents are lower up here than down there. Jeez and why are the working people getting taxed to death no duh!! Section 8 = a decent home for people not working most usally by choice paid by working people who after paying taxes cant afford to live in one of these places at the cost the landlord gets for the rent under section 8 which is often much higher than the apartment is worth. ANd you wonder why they want to build more sec.8 housing ?? to fleece the taxpayers!!!

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