WILTON — The Wilton Select Board approved amendments to the town’s general assistance ordinance at the Tuesday, Sept. 20, meeting.

The changes this year are in the overall maximum levels of assistance a municipality can provide, Town Manager Perry Ellsworth told the board.

Ellsworth said that changes to maximums include:

• A one-person household can receive $38 more in assistance for $728.

• A two-person household can receive $37 more for 774.

• Three-person households can receive $63 more for $909.


• Four-person households can receive $110 more for $1,229.

• Five person households can receive $63 more for $1,566.

Ellsworth told the board the state is requiring municipalities adopt these increases by Oct. 1 in order to receive a 70% reimbursement from the state for funds Wilton spends on the program.

The Maine General Assistance Program, overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and Maine Municipal Association, “helps individuals and families to meet their basic needs.”

This help comes via financial assistance, in the form of voucher payments, for: household or personal supplies; food, housing costs; fuel and utilities; medical, dental and prescription costs; and burial costs.

An individual or household in need of assistance applies at the town office of the municipality they are currently living in or preparing to move to.


In order to qualify, an applicant must provide information on their income, current bank-account status, a list of expenses (including rent, electricity, food, medical, tax or transportation bills), and a list of “things of value” such as available cash, bank accounts, cars, etc. according to the DHHS.

While the municipality requires you offer information on “things of value,” Pine Tree Legal states “if you can’t pay your basic expenses, you can get help even if you own a home or a car.”

Additionally, Ellsworth told the board if an applicant is out of work, they must be directed to the Career Center in Wilton first, unless it’s an emergency application.

But, Ellsworth clarified, usually the town’s benefits are going to people that are working but “not making enough money … funds to pay the bills.”

Wilton’s General Assistance Program is overseen by administrator Cindy Dunham.

During discussion, Selectperson Mike Wells raised concerns about the program.


“It’s more of a concern of justifying the need,” Wells said.

Wells referenced a time he witnessed someone apply for general assistance that had a $25,000 Harley Davidson motorcycle.

“I could give you numerous examples of tenants that I have that are under that same mindset: if it’s free, he’ll take it, the money goes elsewhere, new motorcycle, new boat, etc.” Wells said.

“It sounds like a bigger issue than we can solve at this table,” Select Board Chair David Leavitt said.

“We need to be good stewards and put all of the stopgaps in place that are legally afforded,” Wells said.

He would have that conversation with Dunham, Wells added.


“My experience is that Cindy [Dunham] does a good job of going through and making sure that everything [requirements] is met,” Selectperson Tiffany Maiuri said.

“You are overseers of the poor, that’s part of your job, title as a Selectperson,” Ellsworth said.

“Personal opinion – we’ve had this discussion before – define poor. Poor judgment, poor decisions?” Wells said.

“There’s just no getting around it,” Ellsworth said. “When I do it I reach in my pocket and give them money … it doesn’t matter what you own, it matters what you make, what are you making right now?”

“It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken … And I agree, David, it’s bigger than we can solve right here. But we need to have the discussion because as you said, you can reach into your pocket and pay out some of that for the person that’s maybe $1 or two over the income,” Wells said. “But what I don’t want to do as a selectman is reach into other people’s pockets, town taxpayers, and give away money without ensuring that that person is truly in need, versus driving up on a $25,000 Harley [Davidson motorcycle].”

Ellsworth said if the town rejects the application, every applicant has the right to appeal the decision at the DHHS. The town could end up having to pay that applicant the assistance plus a fine, in that instance, Ellsworth said.


“It’s part of the business that nobody really likes to do, But it is part of the business that as has been said that Cindy does an excellent job of sorting through that,” Ellsworth explained. “There are requirements all the way through and I suggest that you do sit with her and go through it so that you get your questions answered.”

In an interview, Ellsworth shared he thinks the program is important as someone who “grew up real poor.”

“I think that people just need general assistance need general assistance. Do I always agree with the way things are put out? No,” Ellsworth said.

He stressed he feels “very passionate about the fact that everybody should have the essential needs of life [met], at least.”

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