Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, has found a way to make the poor and elderly on Social Security pay for the DHHS’ computer mistakes. The DHHS benignly refers to it as an “agency error.”

They do this by having the Internal Revenue Service garnish the paychecks, each month, from people who would rather not come forward because they are in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, which is, perhaps, not the highlight of their life.

Because of overpayments, caused by a snafu in the DHHS computer system in Augusta, over 3,000 people will have their Social Security checks garnished by 15 percent per month, until what they owe is paid back.

It all goes back to the old adage of “how can you relate to a hungry person when your belly is full?” Well, evidently, the Maine DHHS can’t either.

Many of these people live from paycheck to paycheck and the DHHS commissioner knows this, yet she insists on collecting this money, which could have been taken care of easily when one considers the DHHS budget in Maine. Many of the people affected will have surprise bills of over $1,000. Where will this money come from? From necessities like food, medicine and housing.

The Maine DHHS’ decision to make life harder for the most vulnerable people in Maine reminds me of the final line of Shakespeare’s last couplet in Sonnet No. 94: “For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” This is one of those foul deeds that Shakespeare is referring to.

As a former state representative, I think it is one of the most inconsiderate acts I have seen coming out of Augusta. I hope local people will call the commissioner and protest this egregious decision.

Bernard L.A. Ayotte

former Republican state representative

Van Buren