Union: LePage administration is laying off DHHS workers

Good morning from Augusta, where the Maine State Employees Association has confirmed that more than a dozen state employees recently received layoff notices.

According to Ramona Welton, president of the union that represents most state workers, layoff notices were given to 10 Department of Health and Human Services employees on Tuesday of this week with end dates of Nov. 11.

The projected job losses break down as follows:

  • Seven of the positions are in the Office of Child and Family Services. Five are contract quality control specialists, one is a contract specialist and the other is a resource coordinator team leader.
  • Two of the layoffs were in the Office of Family Independence.
  • The final layoff was in the Office of Aging and Disability Services.

According to the union, some of those employees could transfer to other positions or exercise “bumping rights,” which means they could move into a lower-level position, thereby displacing an employee with less seniority.

About two weeks ago, according to Welton, an additional six layoff notices were given to DHHS employees with an end date of today. Some of those positions were related to Gov. Paul LePage’s administration’s intention of privatizing the ASPIRE program, including closing the Calais office.

As you’ve read in the Daily Brief and Bangor Daily News, there are up to 51 ASPIRE positions on the chopping block. Layoff notices for those jobs went out in late August but had no end date. DHHS is working toward privatizing the ASPIRE program, which helps welfare recipients attain jobs, with a company called Fedcap. DHHS is close to signing a contract with Fedcap to do the work but the company will have a startup window that overlaps with the layoffs, according to Welton. That has created uncertainty in the workforce, she said.

“The effect is very much like tossing a stone into a pond and watching the ripples go out from the center,” she said. “Every employee, the family, the children, the community for every employee is affected.”

The overall impact on the number of state employees isn’t clear and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services and Department of Health and Human Services have not responded to questions from the Bangor Daily News from earlier this week.

The layoff notices come during a time of uncertainty for many state employees. LePage said over the summer that in his next biennial budget proposal, which is due in January, he intends to trim the number of positions in state government from about 11,000 now to about 9,500, though many of those positions are currently vacant.

LePage has long argued that the state budget is bloated because it funds hundreds of positions that have remained vacant for months or years.

(Hat tip to the BDN’s Matthew Stone for relaying this information to the Daily Brief.)

Quick hits

  • Responses from candidates on a range of questions: The Bangor Daily News has been collecting responses from candidates from the Legislature on a number of topics, including their thoughts on the five referendum questions. Click here to see responses from nine candidates who are running unopposed and click here to see responses from candidates in contested races. That latter link goes to the page where the BDN will be compiling results on election night, so you might want to bookmark that. If you don’t see any responses when you click on a name, that means the candidate did not complete a survey. The BDN respects the unopposed candidates who took the time to fill out the surveys anyway. Some of them are likely to hold leadership positions or important committee chairmanships in the next Legislature, making their responses valuable.
  • 5 senators, one stage: An interesting political event is planned for this evening in Bangor. Current U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King will join three former U.S. senators from Maine — William Cohen, George Mitchell and Olympia Snowe — at the Cross Insurance Center. The event is part of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner and will be moderated by CNBC chief Washington correspondent and New York Times political writer John Harwood.
  • Trump is coming (again): In case you missed it, Donald Trump will be in Maine again today with a 3 p.m. rally planned at the Open Door Christian Academy in Lisbon. You’ve read and seen a lot about why Trump keeps coming to Maine — basically it’s about winning between one and three electoral votes — but The Hill has done some interesting new number crunching. That organization says Trump’s most likely path to victory includes winning New Hampshire’s four electoral votes in addition to Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
  • (Mrs.) LePage for Donald Trump: Ann LePage, the governor’s wife, is appearing in a new national advertisement for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. “Yes, Donald is blunt just like my husband but he gets things done,” says LePage in the campaign video, which is running on CNN and Fox News, according to WGME. Here’s her soundtrack. (If you have video of this ad and can send it to ccousins@bangordailynews.com, we’ll update today’s Daily Brief with a link to it). UPDATE: Here’s a link to the advertisement.

Reading list

Who will win the presidency? Ask the Brits!

The British Broadcasting Corporation, with apparently not much election news to report on since the Brexit vote, has devised a game that will (supposedly) help you predict who will win the Nov. 8 election.

The BBC astutely observes that most states always vote the same way in presidential elections, putting the contest in the hands of a handful of battleground states (I know this is review, but let’s be patient with our English brethren from across the ocean).

The game asks players to make predictions in battleground states, but doesn’t leave you cold. It provides some demographic data and vote margins from the 2008 and 2012 presidential contests.

There, that ought to chew up some of your rainy Friday morning. I predict the game will be a lot of fun until you’re asked to make a decision about Florida. — 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.