BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — It may not just be state employees who don't receive paychecks in a state government shutdown. Direct Care workers that serve people with disabilities at private agencies that depend on Mainecare funding, could also not get paid. Branches LLC operates a group home in Bangor called Hawthorne House.
Geneva Beldon has been living at Hawthorne House for the past ten years. She has an intellectual disabililty but can live in community with support from direct care workers
"They're very important to me because I would not be...I would be devastated if you take these people away from me," she said.
But many of those direct care workers, like Alicia Benning wonder if they'll be getting a paycheck next week.
"It's very scary, i'd still stay though," she said.
Padraic Harrison is also a direct care worker for OHI and works the overnight shift in a group home. He feels some of the agencies clients would be in trouble if workers couldn't work.
"There are some people who would do quite well yes, there are some people who would not," said Harrison.
OHI does have a rainy day fund to cover payroll temporarily and even if workers don't get paid, they cannot leave clients without support.
"The direct care workers can't walk off the job because that would be considered abandonment but if their agency doesn't get paid how is the agency going to pay them for the service they provide," explained Frances Cartier.
Cartier runs ISC for ME, LLC., a company that provides case managment services for adults with disabilities and she too depends on Mainecare to pay for the services her company provides.
"It's pretty worrisome right now," she said.
DHHS has yet to respond to NEWS CENTER's questions about what contingency plans it has in place.
But we are learning things from other sources.
Attorneys for Maine Equal Justice Partners, who had threatened legal action against the state, says the state agreed to provide funding for recipients of Mainecare, general assistance (TANF) and food stamps (SNAP).
OHI shared an email with NEWS CENTER from the state claiming In the event of a state government shutdown, Governor LePage has granted the Maine Department of Health and Human Services emergency authority to operate in a limited capacity to ensure critical benefit payments and DHHS service delivery. That email stated DHHS would use existing funds from this fiscal year to make Mainecare Payments through the July 5th payment cycle.
That same provider also received an email however warning that the State cannot guarantee payment for work performed during a shutdown. It reads:
This notice is to keep you informed of the possibility that a state budget may not be in place for FY ’18-’19 before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. As a general rule, the Maine State Constitution and state law prohibits expenditures of state funds in the absence of appropriations and allocations by the Legislature. Therefore, all non-emergency state governmental services will cease to operate until a budget is passed into law.
Pursuant to applicable provisions in State contracts, in the event of a shutdown of State Government, the State is not obligated to make payments for work performed during the shutdown period. Contractors and providers are advised to act accordingly. At this time contractors and providers are not being notified to stop work on contracts with the State. However, the State cannot guarantee payment for work performed during a shutdown absent an approved FY ’18-’19 budget.