Thank you to Sens. Nicole Grohoski and Rick Bennett for offering a bipartisan proposal this week on L.D. 1, the winter energy relief payment program that failed in the Maine Senate on Dec. 7. In addition to offering targeted relief to Mainers who need it, the new proposal would eliminate the deappropriation that the original L.D. 1 would have made from MaineCare (including a $35 million deappropriation from home- and community-based services for Mainers with autism, intellectual disability, brain injury and other related conditions).

Roxanne Lagace, left, who has cerebral palsy, works on a craft with the help of Bethany Trussell, right, a direct support professional with Bridges Home Services, at the Cohen Center in Hallowell in 2021. Looking on while working on a craft of her own is Hazel Hanscome of Randolph. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer, File

Mainers with disabilities, like most Americans with disabilities, have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, and Mainers with disabilities are still dealing with ongoing crises from being on years-long wait lists and seeing needs go unmet because of insufficient wages for direct support professionals that cannot compete in today’s labor market.

The last thing we need is to hand out cash on the backs of people with disabilities. Instead, pass a more targeted L.D. 1 that doesn’t exacerbate the workforce and wait list issues. The Legislature should then use the supplemental and biennial budget bills to eliminate wait lists and pay market rates for direct support professional labor.

Alan Cobo-Lewis

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