BANGOR, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed biennial budget could result in a reduction of an estimated $260,000 from the city’s general assistance allotment at a time when need has never been greater.
Shawn Yardley, director of health and community services for Bangor, has said any cuts to general assistance would almost certainly need to be made up at the municipal level.
LePage’s proposed budget, released earlier this month, would reduce GA reimbursements to large cities that distribute the most aid but also receive the most money from the state. The budget also would limit recipients to 30 days of assistance in a year, something Yardley said could lead to evictions and increased homelessness .
Reducing reimbursements to large cities could save the state more than $1 million a year, but Yardley said Bangor would still be obligated to assist its most vulnerable citizens, and that group is growing.
From July through December of last year, the first half of the 2011 fiscal year, the city granted assistance to more people — 1,257 — than it did for the entire 2010 fiscal year. Last month, Yardley hired a temporary caseworker to handle the increase in general assistance requests.
The city appropriated $2.3 million last year for general assistance, including more than $1.5 million from state funds.
Portland spent $6.5 million on general assistance in the last fiscal year — $4.7 million in state funding — according to a recent report published by the Portland Press Herald. The city would lose an estimated $900,000 under the changes in the governor’s budget.
Dan Demeritt, spokesman for the governor, told the Portland Press Herald, that the goal of the GA changes is “to make it clear that the program is a temporary and rare piece of assistance, so it’s not something people would turn to time and time again.”
General assistance is a state program designed to provide emergency assistance to those in need. The program is administered by municipalities and the cost is split between cities and towns and the state, expect in areas like Bangor and Portland where the need is greater.