On Jan. 10, I was stunned as the hearing room in Augusta concerning Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed changes to general assistance rules filled with an estimated 200 attendees.
I listened to testimony, was interviewed by a television station, and submitted my written comments. Looking around, I gathered that I was likely the only person there in support of the governor’s rule change that aligns General Assistance with established federal law that prevents access to any benefits for five years.
Asylum is a federal program started in 1980 and has grown steadily, with 29,484 applicants granted asylum in 2012.
General Assistance is a local and state program in which each picks up 50 percent of the cost until the assistance exceeds a certain amount based on a municipality’s valuation; then the state pays 90 percent of the bill.
Here’s the rub: Three cities — Portland, Lewiston and Bangor — have passed the threshold into the 90 percent state reimbursement level. The three cities represent 10 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million inhabitants. So the tax dollars that pay for the program are being siphoned off from the other 90 percent of Maine’s residents.
Something else bothered me.
How could 200 people make it to Augusta in the middle of a work day to attend this hearing?
As I saw the bus outside, which obviously brought many of the gatecrashers there, I thought: Where did they get the money for this trip? I thought they were destitute.
Bob Casimiro, Bridgton