How can this be? That was the first thought that came to mind in reading Richard Pollak’s Maine Voices column, “LePage administration forfeits almost $2 billion in federal aid to Maine” (April 18).

In the late 1970s and ’80s, Joseph Brennan was governor and I was Maine’s health and human services commissioner. It was understood that federal social programs, enacted by a democratically elected Congress and funded by voluntarily paid taxes, were important in helping the state’s most vulnerable populations: the poor, elderly, ill, disabled and victims of abuse.

Drawing down all federal funds that could help make proven programs a reality was a high priority. Such programs enabled the elderly to remain at home, protected children from abuse, enforced child support payment orders, reduced dental disease, helped struggling poor families, improved prenatal care, reduced infant mortality rates and provided protection for mentally ill geriatric patients.

Water quality, disease prevention, restaurant sanitation and much more were also beneficiaries of targeted federal spending. In view of all the Mainers who benefit from well-run health and social services, it’s difficult to understand why the state would not take advantage of every federal dollar available. If the governor refuses to do it, the Legislature should force his hand.

Michael Petit