Written by Staff Report
Abigail Hernandez, a missing teen who was the subject of a fervent search in New Hampshire, is back home, officials reported Monday.
Hernandez was safely reunited with her family Sunday evening, according to a short press release from New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph A. Foster, Conway Police Chief Edward Wagner, New Hampshire State Police Colonel Robert Quinn and FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent in Charge William Scott O’Donnell.
“The facts and circumstances surrounding Abigail’s disappearance continue to be actively investigated by members of the agencies,” a press release stated. “Further details will be provided once it has been determined that releasing additional information will not compromise the integrity of the on-going criminal investigation.” Law enforcement thanked the public for its cooperation and assistance in the investigation. The Hernandez family has requested privacy as they assist with the law enforcement efforts and as they spend time supporting and caring for Abigail, officials said. Zenya Hernandez, Abigail’s mother, has informed law enforcement officers that “today we are the happiest people on earth.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, Hernandez, then age 15, was last seen leaving Kennett High School in North Conway, N.H.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 July 2014 02:34
Written by Staff Report
The Portland Green Independent Committee will meet on Sunday, July 20 to nominate two candidates for the Maine House of Representatives, the committee reported. Benjamin Schattenburg (District 39) and Reed Berkowitz (District 41) withdrew from the race earlier this month.
A majority of legislative seats in Portland will have Green Independent challengers. Statewide, there are 15 candidates for Maine's Legislature, the most since 2004, the committee reported.
The caucus and meeting will take place at 31 Anson Road in Portland.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 23:25
Written by Staff Report
With several Maine nursing homes on the brink of closure, Governor Paul LePage and Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew announced Thursday that Maine nursing facilities will receive $25.4 million in additional funding in the upcoming fiscal year.
"Maine is one of the oldest states in the nation, and these nursing homes are critical to our seniors and the family members who care for them," said Governor LePage. "As we prioritize spending within Maine's Medicaid program, the elderly stand at the front of the line when it comes to needing our help."
Underfunded by the state since 2005, many of Maine's 106 nursing homes have been facing financial difficulties because of less-than-adequate Medicaid reimbursement rates. In fact, two have recently closed their doors.
Mayhew said LD 1776 provided $12.3 million in additional funding to nursing facilities, including $4 million in state funds and $700,000 from additional provider tax revenue; and $7.7 million in federal matching funds. The Legislature was only able to identify about a third of the amount nursing facilities truly needed, she added.
LePage proposed L.D. 1864, allocating an additional $5 million, but Democrats rejected it, Mayhew said. They left the job undone, so the LePage administration has worked to identify additional funding to support this priority, Mayhew said. The administration was able to identify a total of $13.1 million in additional resources, which will more than double the total amount that nursing facilities would have received from the Legislature, she said. This includes $4.6 million in state funds and $8.5 million in federal matching funds, for a total of $25.4 million in new funding for nursing homes, Mayhew said.
"Our ability to better manage the Medicaid program has led to virtually no growth in the program in State Fiscal Year 2014 and a reduction in growth in 2015," stated Commissioner Mayhew. "Per the Governor's direction, DHHS began working to identify a possible funding source to support this critical need. Now we can begin to prioritize spending and care for those who are most at risk."
Since the Legislature adjourned in April, Governor LePage has requested lawmakers return to Augusta to address the nursing home funding shortage. Despite Republicans' offer to reconvene and do the necessary work, Democratic leadership has refused to call the Legislature back. President Senate Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves sent a letter to Republican leadership indicating they would not be returning to do any work in Augusta.
Rick Erb, president and CEO of Maine Health Care Association, which represents over 200 providers of long-term care, praised the Administration's efforts to make Maine's senior citizens a top priority.
"I learned of this news today and am pleased to hear of it. On behalf of Maine's nursing homes, we are deeply appreciative of the Administration's efforts to provide the level of funding these facilities require for our seniors," said Erb. "Adding these funds to what was appropriated by the legislature is a big step forward and puts our nursing homes in a better position to serve the needs of our elderly throughout the State of Maine."
Each of Maine's remaining 104 facilities statewide will receive funding. The rate increase is expected to take effect retroactively July 1.
Democrats have blamed LePage for the nursing home situation. On the party website, Democratic leadership wrote, "In April, Governor LePage vetoed the bipartisan state budget, which would increase funds for nursing homes by $26 million. The Governor refused to sign a bill that would increase reimbursement rates for nursing homes a regular basis, including an additional $12 million starting in July."
Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 00:08
Written by Staff Report
The city of Portland, The Trust for Public Land, and Portland Trails announced this week that they are joining forces to launch a citywide open spaces assessment and comprehensive planning initiative focused on "fully functional open spaces, green spaces, city parks, gardens and trails."
To support the public engagement process that is necessary to achieve an "inclusive vision," Portland Trails announced that it was recently awarded an $18,000 grant by the Lerner Foundation, the city announced.
"I want to thank The Trust for Public Land and Portland Trails for partnering with us on this effort as we know how important open spaces are in sustaining great communities," said City Manager Mark Rees. "City parks are a tremendous asset and contribute significantly to the quality of life we enjoy in Portland, but this effort will go beyond that by looking at ways in which we can improve our parks and open spaces and sustain them into the future. Additionally, I'm pleased that several of the expected outcomes directly respond to the Council's 2014 Common Goals."
In March, 2014, the city of Portland requested technical assistance from The Trust for Public Land — a leading national nonprofit land conservation organization — related to the accomplishment of specific tasks geared toward supporting a vision and a plan for the city's open spaces and parks.
The proposed work also includes The Trust for Public Land providing its expertise to identify options for sustainable funding, the city reported. At the same time, Portland Trails applied for, and was granted, funding through the Lerner Foundation for the creation of a community-wide vision for Portland's open spaces. The Trust for Public Land and Portland Trails will work together with city staff on this project, with Portland Trails using its grant funding to conduct the community engagement portion of the vision and planning process.
Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 17:41
Written by Staff Report
Two women fleeing violence and persecution in their home country on Thursday asked to join a lawsuit challenging a Maine Department of Health and Human Services rule change that would deny general assistance to asylum seekers and other immigrants, the ACLU of Maine reported.
Rehma Rebecca Juma and Suavis Furaha came to Maine to escape violence in their native Burundi, the organization reported. The ACLU of Maine and Maine Equal Justice Partners filed the complaint against DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew on their behalf.
"The LePage administration is barging ahead with a proposal that it has been told in no uncertain terms is unconstitutional," said Zachary Heiden, legal director of the ACLU of Maine. "We have a rulemaking process in place for a reason – to protect the people of Maine from unlawful policies like this one."
"General assistance provides temporary support for people who are trying to build a new life after escaping terrible violence," said Robyn Merrill, senior policy analyst for MEJP. "The vast majority of people impacted by this change are asylum seekers who are lawfully seeking refuge here. They are caught in legal limbo, unable to work and with few resources. The LePage administration is playing politics with people's lives."
Meanwhile, a group that opposes granting benefits to illegal immigrants announced plans to press for legislation or a citizen's initiative to outlaw the practice.
The Maine Equal Rights Center will urge lawmakers to sponsor a bill in November, An Act Requiring Residents to be Citizens to Receive Welfare Benefits, which would require towns to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system as well as have applicants provide identification proving citizenship such as a birth certificate, U.S. Passport, or other legal documents, the center's president said.
If the legislation should not pass, then Erick Bennett, the president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Maine Equal Rights Center, said he will proceed with a citizen's Initiative to place it on the ballot. Bennett said the majority of Maine people in both political parties "agree that illegal immigrants should not receive taxpayer benefits and entitlements."
Towns are required to use the SAVE system now but fail to do so, Bennett asserted. The law will require all towns to verify and confirm eligibility for those applying for and currently receiving benefits and will require all undocumented and illegal recipients to be reported and deported.
Governor Paul LePage is proposing policies to reform benefits and entitlements for those accessing taxpayer money illegally, but Bennett said this effort will still allow Portland to continue breaking the law by raising taxes on property owners and forcing them to pay for it against their will.
"Attorney General Janet Mills and Mayor Michael Brennan are breaking federal law and violating our Constitutional rights by not requiring Portland to use the SAVE system resulting in Mainers spending a million dollars a year and this amount will only increase as President Obama floods our nation and state with illegals and they come to Portland," Bennett said. "It is wrong for Mayor Brennan and Attorney General Mills to force the rest of the state to pay for Portland's illegal and unsustainable immigration policies when Portland already consumes 40 percent of the state welfare budget."
In this year's primary election, Bennett waged an unsuccessful write-in bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Last Updated on Friday, 18 July 2014 00:09