DHHS enters agreement to help cash benefit recipients volunteer in schools

Good morning from Maine’s capital, where the State House is expected to be awash in the blue and tan uniforms of hundreds of visiting Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts. It’s Scout recognition day! Can you guess when Boy Scouts of America was incorporated? Keep reading for the answer. 

The House and Senate are in session this morning and committees will convene this afternoon. 

It’s a big day for Republican Sen. Paul Davis of Sangerville and his ongoing efforts to find a solution for funding problems at the state’s county jails. Earlier this year, lawmakers appropriated $2.5 million to cover budget gaps that threatened to close some of the jails, but attached to that funding was a decree by Gov. Paul LePage for the Legislature to revisit how the jails are funded. Currently, it’s mostly local funding borne by property tax payers. In addition to the funding issues, oversight needs to be sorted out because LePage rejected major reforms enacted by the Legislature in 2014 by refusing to appoint members to the now-defunct board of corrections. 

Davis’ two bills are the subject of work sessions scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. 

The Education Committee is working a handful of bills related to student privacy and the protection of student data, which could be nearing a committee vote this afternoon.

The Environment and Natural Resources Committee is hearing an attempt today to create the Recycling Grants and Low-interest Loan Program, the Maine Recycling Fund and the Recycling Public Advisory Council to help municipalities and the recycling industry enhance their operations. The project would be funded by a fee paid by manufacturers of bottles greater than 32 ounces in capacity, which would no longer be subject to the state’s bottle redemption laws. 

The Health and Human Services Committee will take testimony on three bills designed to put new restrictions and controls on the use of electronic benefits transfer cards, which are the vehicle the state uses to administer cash benefits for social services recipients. 

The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, as usual, has its eye on outdoor recreation and will consider several bills related to ice fishing rules and making registrations of snowmobiles and ATVs from neighboring states valid in Maine. 

In the Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee, Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon, is expected to support an amendment to his bill titled An Act to Provide Access to Infertility Treatment, which would require private insurance companies to pay some of the cost of infertility treatments. Mason said controversial provisions in the bill that would exclude non-married couples and people who are infertile because of sexually transmitted diseases were included mistakenly and he wants them out so the rest of the bill can move forward. 

The Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee is scheduled to do more work on An Act to Improve Access to Treatments for Lyme Disease, a bill whose sponsor said last week she would scuttle the bill if there was any attempt to insert an informed consent clause that would require doctors to attain patient sign-off for the administration of long-term antibiotics. 

Click here to sign up to receive the Daily Brief in your email inbox here! — Christopher Cousins 

New program links state aid recipients with volunteer opportunities

The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday announced that DHHS has partnered with Portland-based LearningWorks to help social services recipients find volunteer opportunities with the AmeriCorps “AIMS HIGH” program.

The program recruits, trains and places AmeriCorps members in five high schools across Maine, where there are currently 45 open positions. Upon completion of 300 hours of volunteer service, participants will be eligible for education grants of $1,195.

In addition to providing an all-around benefit, the program will help SNAP recipients achieve a new 20-hour-a-week work requirement by the state to receive their benefits. LearningWorks is run by Ethan Strimling, a former Democratic legislator and well-known political pundit and columnist.

The participating schools include Carrabec High School in North Anson, Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, Kaler Elementary School in South Portland, Riverton Elementary in Portland and East End Community School in Portland. Able-bodied adults without dependents or anyone interested in the program can called LearningWorks at 775-0105. — Christopher Cousins

Collins in Cosmo

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is in the news again, speaking out about the sexism she has experienced en route to becoming one of the U.S. Senate’s senior members. There’s some pretty shocking stuff in an article published this week by Cosmopolitan magazine. Like this quote from Collins regarding her 1994 run for Maine governor:

“I’ll never forget a young male banker coming up to me and telling me that he agreed with my views on all of the issues but he just couldn’t imagine a woman running the state of Maine. … I could see him thinking it, but that he felt no compunction about actually telling me why he wasn’t going to vote for me?”

Check out the full article for more. — Christopher Cousins

Reading list

Back to Boy Scouts

Could you guess when the Boy Scouts were incorporated? It was a long time ago. The organization was founded in 1910 in Washington, D.C., and by 1911 had established its national headquarters in a YMCA office in New York. Cub Scouting, which is designed for younger boys, was launched in 1930.

As of a couple of years ago, the program included more than 2.6 million youth members and more than a million volunteers. My son and I can vouch for the fact that the program is amazing. If your son is entering the first grade, he’s eligible. Your local pack or troop shouldn’t be hard to find. — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.