Gov. Mills facing criticism for not signing nursing home funding bill

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) Gov. Janet Mills is being criticized for not signing off on a law to increase funding to nursing homes.

Seven nursing homes in Maine have closed in the past two years.

The governor is holding off on the bipartisan-supported bill until next year when lawmakers return to session.

Republicans say postponing the funding is detrimental to the care for our elderly.

“While the legislature was pushing to fund this bill in the last few days of the session, I was struggling to place my own mother in a senior living facility," said Sen. Robert Foley, R-Wells, in a press release Monday morning. "After calling facilities as far as two hours away and finding no beds available, I was forced to take her out of state. The governor’s lack of action on this bill will make that same struggle a difficult reality for too many Maine families for no good reason.”

But a spokesperson for Mills says the governor held the bill because it calls for a rate hike that exceeds the level to qualify for matching federal funds. She also accused Republicans of "playing politics."

"Had she signed this bill into law, it would have caused nursing home costs billed to MaineCare to exceed that federally required limit, which in turn would have stopped federal match funding," said Mills' press secretary Lindsay Crete in an email Monday. "The state would then have to make up for that loss, though the Legislature never allocated any money to compensate for it."

Sen. President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, the bill's sponsor, says that he is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide more federal funding for nursing homes without putting the cost on Mainers.

Jackson says that Republicans should have voted for the budget, which included funding to nursing homes, if they want to talk about funding.

“While I appreciate the Senate Republicans’ concern for our seniors and this bill, I wish more of them would have voted for a budget that provides some much-need funding for these facilities," said Jackson. "Where I’m from, actions speak louder than words.”

When the legislature goes back into session, Mills will have three days to sign the bill, veto it, or let it become law without her signature.