In his recent letter (“Health and Human Services fails the most vulnerable,” May 6), Albert Edwards asserts that one of the true measures of a society is how it treats those unable to care for themselves. We agree, which is why the Mills administration has made unprecedented investments in services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Gov. Janet Mills’ biennial budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 included a rate increase of $69 million for group homes and related services provided in Maine’s comprehensive program for adults with IDD (Section 21). The Legislature adopted a policy that state rates must support 125% of the minimum wage for direct support workers, which was fully funded, along with an increase for inflation, with an additional $46 million in the governor’s supplemental budget. This results in a total increase of $115 million over the biennium. The group home rates that took effect Jan. 1 represent a 16% increase over June 2021. The rates in January 2023 will be 22% higher than at the end of the last biennium.

In addition to these permanent rate increases, the Department of Health and Human Services in February and March issued $57 million in one-time federal funding for retention and recruitment bonuses for IDD direct support workers. This was a thank-you to the thousands of workers who persevered through the pandemic and boosted their pay while the Legislature finalized the budget. And, recently, the department announced an additional $11 million that will be distributed this summer for providers to help individuals with disabilities of all ages remain in their communities.

As a result of the governor’s leadership and the Legislature’s strong bipartisan support, permanent and significant rate increases are now fully funded and in effect, supporting services for Maine people who rely on them.

Paul Saucier

Director of the DHHS Office of Aging and Disability Services