Executive Order Directs State Agencies to Work Together to Ensure older Maine People Age in Healthy, Safe Communities With Dignity and Support
Portland, MAINE – Fulfilling a promise from her State of the State Address, Governor Janet Mills today signed an Executive Order establishing a Cabinet on Aging.
The creation of the Cabinet comes at a time when Maine’s median age makes it the oldest state in the nation, with tens of thousands of people expected to retire in the coming years, removing them from the state’s workforce and increasing demand for aging-related services.
The Cabinet will help Maine prepare for and address these demographic changes by advancing policies that will support Maine people in aging safely, affordably, and in ways and settings that best serve their needs. The Cabinet will bring together State government agencies to improve coordination and to accelerate action.
The Cabinet consists of Commissioners from the Department of Health and Human Services, Labor, Economic and Community Development, Administrative and Financial Services, Professional and Financial Regulation, Public Safety, and Transportation, as well as the Director of the Maine State Housing Authority. The Commissioners of Health and Human Services and Labor will co-chair the Cabinet. The bipartisan, biennial budget included a staff person to support this work across state government in the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.
The Governor made the announcement at the Sam L. Cohen Households at The Cedars in Portland. This recently opened facility is one of two “Household Models of Senior Living” in the state. This model offers residents a home-like environment, input into daily activities, and state-of-the-art care to preserve their quality of life. It is consistent with models envisioned in Maine’s Age Friendly State Plan that charts improvements from housing to supportive services to accessible outdoor spaces.
“Maine people work hard their entire lives and they deserve to age comfortably in the communities they love,” said Governor Janet Mills. “With the establishment of the Cabinet on Aging, we can advance policies across state government that make sure the needs of Maine people are met as they age.”
“The Cabinet on Aging formalizes the coordination across Maine state government that protected older residents during the pandemic,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “The Cabinet will build upon those efforts to continue to make Maine a healthy place to age.”
“Older workers are a vital part of our state’s economy,” said Laura Fortman, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor. “We continue to hear from older workers who want to rejoin the workforce, but who are experiencing roadblocks. We are committed to connecting all workers with rewarding work. The new Cabinet on Aging is one way that we will strengthen the existing coordination of services for seniors, whatever their goals may be - including retirement or employment. We are also committed to ensuring that there is a skilled statewide workforce to provide quality support services for folks to age with dignity in their homes and communities.”
“The Sam L. Cohen Households are exceeding our expectations at providing truly person-centered care in a home setting while creating a workplace that empowers the staff to lead and grow,” said Kathy Callnan, President and CEO of The Cedars. “By coordinating statewide efforts, Governor Mills’ Cabinet on Aging will support organizations like The Cedars, older Mainers who deserve to age well in homes like the Households, and the staff who provide such quality care.”
"Today, more than ever, the aging population in Maine needs our help,” said Megan Walton, CEO of the Southern Maine Area Agency on Aging. “Through the creation of the Cabinet on Aging, we will shine a light on the older adults in our state who need information, resources, tools and support to live and thrive in their own communities."
“The Governor’s action to establish the Cabinet on Aging will improve the lives of Maine’s older citizens, who are the fastest-growing segment of our population and deserve a coordinated effort of state government to address their needs,” said Brenda Gallant, Maine’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman. “The Cabinet will have the opportunity to build on the work already being done to address the pressing direct care workforce shortage, affordable housing, and investment in long-term care services. We look forward to working closely with Cabinet members to meet the challenges that Maine faces in the years ahead.”
"It is a great leap for our state that older Mainers will be represented in Maine policymaking in a clear, coordinated way," said Sen. Eloise Vitelli of Sagadahoc County, Sen. Marianne Moore of Washington County, Rep. Jessica Fay of Raymond, and Rep. Will Tuell of East Machias, co-chairs of the Legislature's Aging Caucus. “We look forward to partnering with the Governor’s new Cabinet on Aging to uplift the voices and experiences of older Mainers who have so much to contribute to our state.”
The Cabinet is required to meet at least four times per year. The Cabinet will hold its first meeting in July, at a date to be announced, and will meet quarterly after that to coordinate and advance work on affordable housing and long-term services and supports; financial security and protection against fraud; access to information, broadband, and services; and engagement and employment in Maine’s growing economy.
This announcement is the latest in the Governor’s initiatives to support older residents, including:
- Signing Voter-Approved Senior Housing Bonds, held up by her predecessor, to fund construction of more than 200 new affordable housing units for low-income seniors and the weatherization of another 100 existing homes for low-income seniors;
- Signing into law the single largest state investment in housing in Maine’s history. LD 1645, An Act To Create Affordable Workforce and Senior Housing and Preserve Affordable Rural Housing, sponsored by Speaker Ryan Fecteau, increases the current rate of new affordable housing production by creating the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit program.
- Restoring Maine’s Drug for the Elderly Program, which was cut by the previous administration and helps Maine seniors afford prescription medications;
- Launching the State Property Tax Deferral Program, a lifeline loan program through the Governor’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan that can cover the annual property tax bills of eligible Maine people who are ages 65 and older or are permanently disabled and who cannot afford to pay them on their own;
- Launching a $1.5 million recruitment effort through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to recruit young people to enter careers in health care, including direct care worker jobs, such as aides for older Mainers or individuals with disabilities.
- Extending increased delivery of home-delivered food for older adults and caregivers through Meals on Wheels during the pandemic;
- Joining AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities, a move hailed by AARP as a major step toward making Maine more livable for people of every age, and issuing an Age-Friendly State Plan, the culmination of more than a year of collaboration with AARP and more than 50 other organizations throughout the state to craft a comprehensive strategy to help Maine’s older residents live well and safely in their communities;
- Establishing the Elder Justice Coordinating Partnership in 2019 to combat elder abuse in Maine and, in 2022, issuing the Elder Justice Roadmap, the state’s first report focused on combating elder abuse compiled by public and private sector experts on the Governor’s Elder Justice Coordinating Partnership.
- Delivering a Tax Cut to Maine Retirees through the supplemental budget, which by exempting additional Maine retirement pension from income tax, will provide an average tax cut of $560 in just the first year.
- Investing unprecedented funding to support long-term care facilities and home and community-based services for older Mainers.
- Saving Maine Veterans’ Homes in Caribou and Machias by signing into law legislation, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson and enacted unanimously by the State Legislature, and delivering $3.5 million through the budget.
- Prioritizing Maine’s oldest residents – those most at risk from COVID-19 – to receive the COVID-19 vaccination earliest, when supplies were limited. Despite having the oldest median age population in the country, Maine, adjusted for population, ranks third lowest in total number of COVID-19 cases and fourth lowest in number of deaths from COVID-19.