PORTLAND, Maine — The non-profit organization AARP Maine hosted a live, statewide telephone town hall Monday with state leaders to discuss COVID-19.
Gov. Janet Mills, Sen. Angus King, Maine Dept. of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, and Maine Dept. of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman joined moderator Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director, in the town hall.
They discussed the global coronavirus pandemic, and provided resources to help Mainers protect themselves from the virus and prevent its spread.
The town hall was held from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday.
Mills began by explaining all the measures she and the state have put in place so far amid the health crisis, including declaring the state of emergency and passing emergency bills the ease the hardships many in the state are now facing.
The Governor also touched on programs that will specifically seek to help Maine's aging population. Mills announced actions her administration is taking that will accelerate benefits for personal care workers and residents who are home-bound, including pay increases and expanded access to meals for older Mainers.
Maine Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will accelerate MaineCare (Medicaid) rate increases that are designated to support pay raises for personal care workers, including personal support specialists, home health aides, private duty nurses, and other professionals who care for Maine's older residents at home.
Beginning on April 1, providers will receive rate increases that will allow them to fund pay raises for approximately 20,000 personal care workers.
Mills also said they are ensuring the Meals on Wheels program continues. Volunteers will maintain social distancing while delivering food.
“Things will get worse before they get better, we know this…if we all team together, we can keep it at bay by staying home, as difficult as that is sometimes," Mills said.
Sen. Angus King explained the federal $2.2 trillion emergency package that was passed in Washington, D.C., last week. Regarding the one-time stimulus check that will be given to Americans, he explained that people on social security are eligible to receive the money.
Maine Dept. of Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said they are getting guidance from the U.S. Dept. of Labor on how to implement unemployment benefits for people who weren’t previously eligible.
“Help is on the way," Fortman said.
“I do want to assure people that we have already taken the steps necessary...so that as soon as the guidelines are available to us we will begin implementing the programs as quickly as possible, and I want to assure folks that even though the programs are not yet up and running the benefits will be retroactive.”
AARP, founded in 1958, is a social welfare membership organization for people aged 50 and over and seeks to improve the quality of their lives. AARP opened an office in Portland in 2001.
NEWS CENTER Maine will update this story with information from the town hall.
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