Governor Mills Proposes $3.5 Million in Funding to Keep Maine Veterans Homes in Caribou and Machias Open

Governor’s funding proposal supports legislation from Senate President Jackson to save Veterans Homes

Governor Janet Mills announced today that she will dedicate $3.5 million in her forthcoming change package to keep the Maine Veterans Homes in Caribou and Machias open. The Governor will propose $1.75 million in General Fund money, which will leverage $1.75 million in additional Federal funding, for a total of $3.5 million.

The Governor’s proposal, along with other long-term care payments provided through the biennial budget she signed into law and her proposed supplemental budget, will keep the homes in Caribou and Machias open for at least another year, allowing time for the State and Maine Veterans Homes to develop long-term plans for the facilities and their residents.

The Governor’s proposal supports legislation introduced by Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) and championed by Senator Craig Hickman, Senate Chair of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, thatestablishes a process to ensure the state explores every available option before approving the closure of a Maine Veterans’ Home.

The amount is based on combined annual deficit for the Caribou and Machias facilities of $3 million as conveyed by the Chairman of the MVH Board of Trustees to Governor Mills in a February 14 letter.

“Our promise to our veterans is that we will stand by them, just as they stood by us in their service to our state and our nation – and these homes are a small step towards fulfilling that promise,” said Governor Janet Mills. “The veterans who live in these homes, along with their families and the staff, all deserve for them to stay open. I applaud Senate President Jackson for his legislation, and I am putting $3.5 million behind his bill to keep these homes open while MVH works with the State to pursue options in the long-term.”

“The brave Mainers who have served our state and country in the armed forces didn’t back down and they certainly didn’t give up when our rights, our freedoms and our way of life was under fire. Now that the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Caribou and Machias are under threat, we must show the same courage, commitment and resolve to protect their way of life — getting the long-term care they need in a first-rate facility, in their community and near the people they love,” said Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “The closure of any veterans' home should only be the option of last resort. With this new law, the Maine Veterans’ Homes will have to come before the Legislature to seek approval before closing any of these facilities. I’m grateful to Senator Hickman for his work to pass the bill in committee and Governor Janet Mills for an unwavering commitment to fund the proposal in her supplemental budget. Together, we can keep the Maine Veteran’s Homes in Caribou and Machias open and caring for residents.”

“Throughout the nearly five-hour-long public hearing and work session, Mainers appeared before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee outraged and heartbroken over the impending closure of the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Caribou and Machias. However, it quickly became clear that the care provided to the residents of the Maine Veterans’ Homes represents the gold standard for long-term care in this state. I can’t for the life of me understand why we would kick veterans and their families out of their homes when they need us the most,” said Senator Craig Hickman, Senate Chair of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. “I’m grateful that our committee was able to work together with President Jackson and Governor Mills to keep these facilities open and put safeguards in statute to ensure that we never get to this crisis point again. The care of our servicemen and women is too important to leave up to chance. We must keep veterans in their homes.”

Upon learning of the Board’s vote to close, Governor Mills and Senate President Jackson have fought to keep the Veterans Homes in Caribou and Machias open. Governor Mills wrote to the Board of Trustees (PDF) to express her concerns, asking them to reconsider their decision and informing them that she had instructed her Administration to be prepared to help them consider potential options other than closure. Senate President Jackson introduced LD 2001, which unanimously passed the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee last week and is expected to be considered by the Senate and House this week. Maine’s Congressional Delegation is also opposed to opposes the closure of the homes.

The Maine Veterans’ Homes were established by the Maine Legislature in 1977 as a state-chartered nonprofit to provide long-term care to veterans and eligible military spouses. The Maine Veterans’ Homes now operates six facilities throughout the state located in Augusta, Caribou, Bangor, Machias, Scarborough, and South Paris.

The Governor will introduce her change package to the Legislature later this week.