By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
They are truly God’s children. Perhaps that is why they have been left on the side of the road by our ever-increasing secular society.
You will never hear them asking for or demanding government assistance. You will never hear them at all. They represent a moral and societal debt that must be paid if we wish to continue to exist and call ourselves a civilized society. They are those among us that unfortunately have been born with severe mental disability.
Our society, which continues to pat itself on the back for projecting a philanthropic attitude toward those labeled as “down trodden,” continues to ignore the basic needs of unquestionably our most vulnerable.
Growing up, they did not sneak around with their peers to participate in a rite of passage known as under-aged drinking. Growing up, they did not experiment with the illegal drug du jour.
Growing up, they required constant, dedicated care and attention by family, teachers and societal agency staff. They will need this care until they are called from this Earth.
Today in Maine our legislators make sure that money is available for those who flock to Maine, many with their GPS programmed for Lewiston, to obtain the generous welfare benefits offered by our caring Legislature. But for 3,100 of our most needy, those who cannot survive without assisted living, the funding for home- or community-based care is not available.
In Maine our Legislature makes sure there is money to meet the needs of those able-bodied residents on generational welfare. But for the 3,100 of our most needy, funding is not available.
In Maine our Legislature requires Lewiston, Auburn and every other city and town in Maine to support, through our local welfare office, those that have reached the five-year limit of benefits and are no longer eligible for further federal or state assistance. But for the 3,100 of our most needy, funding is unavailable.
Then we have the asylum seekers. They come from Europe, Asia, Africa, North or South America. They obtain visas to enter our country. They must declare why they are seeking entry (education, seasonal work, etc.), and further declare that they have a place to stay, money to cover their stay and a home to go back to. Once in our country, they suddenly declare that harm will come to them if they return to their country of origin.
An investigation into their claim is initiated by the federal government. This investigation takes many months to complete. In the meantime, housing, clothing, medication, food, utilities, etc. must be paid for, as they have no money. The federal and state government will not pick up their expenses.
How do they survive? On the forced funding by local taxpayers. But no funding is available for 3,100 of our most needy.
Lastly, our Legislature is eager to add 70,000 more people to our MaineCare program with hardly any debate and even less scrutiny. The federal government held out a carrot, which appears tempting and looks delicious. But it requires us to eat it in order to find out if it meets our expectations. Meanwhile, 3,100 of our most vulnerable and needy citizens and neighbors are ignored.
Finally, Governor Paul LePage has shown he is a good steward when it comes to our money. His decisions are based on sound fiscal judgment, as opposed to governing as though you’re the CEO of a philanthropy with unlimited cash. For his opponents to refer to him as uncaring and insensitive, while failing to address the problems faced by our most vulnerable, is the height of hypocrisy.
Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell the readers the 3,100 most vulnerable cannot vote.
Again this year my wife and I had the honor and privilege of attending Lewiston High School’s Graduation Ceremony at the Colisée. It is very uplifting to watch our community’s children climb the stairs to the stage, receive their diploma, and then descend the stage as young adults.
Congratulations to all, and good luck in the pursuit of your chosen endeavor.