Tag Archives: Maine

LePage to end deal early that outsourced Medicaid staff

Source: Matthew Stone, Bangor Daily News, July 11, 2018
 
Gov. Paul LePage’s administration is putting an early end to a contract it awarded to a Massachusetts firm to handle part of the state’s Medicaid application process and take over the jobs of 10 state employees.  The administration entered into the contract this winter without soliciting competitive bids, and even though having the contractor perform the work would be more expensive than keeping state employees on the job, the BDN reported in February. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services awarded the 25-month, $5.6 million contract to Commonwealth Medicine in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, to have the firm’s specialists determine whether people are disabled for the purpose of qualifying for state-funded health coverage through Medicaid.  Now, the contract will end after a year, and DHHS late last month issued a request for proposals seeking competitive bids to provide the service. …

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LePage Administration Outsources Part of Medicaid Program
Source: Associated Press, March 3, 2018
 
Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to outsource part of the state’s Medicaid application process will cost the state more. The Bangor Daily News reports that the LePage administration acknowledges in a publicly posted contract document that there will be a “slight increase in cost.” The Maine Department of Health and Human Services in June will eliminate the positions of 10 state employees and enter into a $5.6 million, 25-month contract with a division of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The agency didn’t respond to request for comment. …

DHHS reviews child abuse cases it contracted out

Source: Matthew Stone, Bangor Daily News, March 28, 2018
 
Maine’s child welfare program is revisiting six-and-a-half months of child abuse reports it received and referred to contractors who intervene in “lower-risk” abuse and neglect cases. The Office of Child and Family Services earlier this month asked the four contractors who handle those lower-risk cases to comb through their records dating back to last Aug. 31 and re-report to the state many of the families whose cases they were assigned. The state would then review those cases. The request indicates that the state’s alternative response programs, which the four contractors run in their respective regions, are one area of focus for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services following the deaths of 10-year-old Marissa Kennedy and four-year-old Kendall Chick, allegedly at the hands of their caregivers. …

In need of workers, Maine hires contractors to plow roads

Source: Associated Press, December 13, 2017
 
Worker shortages in Maine have forced the state Department of Transportation to hire private contractors to plow roads.  The Portland Press Herald reports the state Department of Transportation has awarded a contract to the Ohio-based company First Vehicle Services. The contractors will work in southern Maine.  MDOT has struggled to keep highway workers in recent years. The department currently has 50 open positions. …

LePage plan to outsource state park jobs questioned

Source: Kevin Miller, Portland Press Herald, March 10, 2017
 
LePage administration proposals to outsource two dozen state park jobs and eliminate conservation-related positions received a chilly reception from some lawmakers and advocacy groups Friday.  The administration wants to hire contractors to fill 15 seasonal assistant park ranger jobs and nine laborer jobs  out of roughly 200 seasonal, primarily summertime jobs at state parks. Walt Whitcomb, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said the shift makes sense because contractors can do many of the maintenance and other basic jobs more efficiently, especially considering the poor shape of some state equipment such as lawn mowers. But Rep. Thomas Skolfield, R-Weld, said wanting to outsource seasonal workers because of lousy equipment “is sort of like saying a state trooper’s cruiser is dying, so we ought to eliminate the trooper” position. …

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Critics question LePage plan to outsource park jobs, cut management positions
Source: Kevin Miller, Portland Press Herald, February 27, 2017
 
Conservation advocates are raising concerns about Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to outsource two dozen jobs at Maine’s state parks and to eliminate management positions involved in overseeing historic sites or public lands.  But LePage administration officials say the changes – including the shift to seasonal contract laborers – are aimed at improving efficiency and refocusing resources at a time when the state parks are adding programs and setting visitation records. … Lawmakers are expecting a spirited discussion next month when they begin diving into LePage’s budget proposals related to Whitcomb’s department. … One of the major changes proposed by LePage in his two-year, $6.8 billion budget is to hire contractors to fill 24 seasonal positions within the parks bureau: 14 full-time assistant park rangers, one part-time assistant park ranger and nine full-time laborers. The potential shift to contractors is not expected to save the department money – the $410,000 in payroll for the state employees is transferred to a contractor fund. Instead, Whitcomb said he believes jobs such as lawn maintenance can be done faster and more efficiently by contractors, especially considering the “antiquated” equipment owned by the state. …

DHHS commissioner says privatized welfare-to-work program worth extra costs

Source: Paul Merrill, WMTW News 8 Portland, January 19, 2017

A new privatized welfare-to-work program will be worth the extra millions of dollars in costs, according to Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. The current program, called Aspire, costs about $10 million a year. The state has signed a contract with the company Fedcap that could be worth as much as $62 million over the next four years, a 55 percent increase over Aspire. … The company will open 16 centers across Maine in the coming weeks to help people transition from welfare to work. Collins said he believes his company can do a better job than state-run programs. … Mayhew said the Fedcap contract is incentive-based to make sure Maine gets its money’s worth. Christine Hastedt, of Maine Equal Justice Partners, said LePage administration policies have pushed thousands of people off state welfare, but said she is optimistic about the public-to-private transition. … Hastedt hopes Fedcap will be able to successfully deal with Mainers who have serious mental and physical barriers to employment. … Collins said his workers have yet to encounter a situation they can’t handle. … Mayhew said former Aspire program workers transitioned to other jobs within the DHHS. Fedcap hired 10 Aspire workers, and a handful left state government, Mayhew said.

‘Donald Trump Before Donald Trump Became Popular’ Wants To Privatize Maine’s Welfare
Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, November 3, 2016

LePage sees the resemblance. He’s called himself ‘’Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular,” and “Baby Donald.” But his harshest trait may be his scorn for society’s most vulnerable. LePage wants to privatize one of Maine’s welfare programs by handing it over to a nonprofit, Fedcap, which has faced a dozen lawsuits since 2013 alleging workplace discrimination and wage, disability, and personal injury disputes. The program helps the nearly 5,000 Maine families receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) find jobs and other community resources, and has the second highest work participation rate in the country. In the Public Interest’s latest report, How privatization increases inequality, describes how, in recent years, a number of states have outsourced important functions related to assisting families at or below the poverty line. Too often, the impact has been tragic. … LePage’s love for privatization runs deep. He’s received campaign money from the country’s largest private prison company; created privately run online and charter schools; put the state’s wholesale liquor business in private hands; proposed a privately run mental health hospital; outsourced the operation of a major bridge; and privatized a program that provides transportation to medical appointments. …

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Editorial: If privatization is so great, why won’t the LePage administration share information?
Source: Bangor Daily News, October 31, 2016

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has given little explanation as to why it has changed longstanding contracts and outsourced government services. The administration has touted and ramped up competitive procurement but has not made it easy for the public to see which private organizations won state contracts and why. The administration’s decisions affect state services that thousands of Maine residents rely on and have altered the way millions of taxpayer dollars are spent. If LePage is confident that his contract awards are improving the state of Maine, he has no reason to shield them. … More than a year later, the LePage’s administration is apparently still in the process of creating the rules needed to implement the new law but is not saying when that work will be completed. Whether it’s refusing to talk to media, limiting the amount of information his administration releases to legislators or equating FOAA requests to a form of “ internal terrorism,” LePage has routinely dismissed the public’s right-to-know since taking office in 2011. … If the administration today were as transparent as LePage promised the state would be when he ran for office in 2010, the public would already have online access to all contract decisions. The public would be able to see how the administration is spending its tax dollars. Without public oversight of contract awards, there’s a higher risk of government officials awarding contracts for personal gain. Such actions are responsible for billions in lost public U.S. dollars each year. There is no evidence LePage or anyone from his administration has engaged in such unethical practices, but the public has a constitutional right to make sure. But, in 2013, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ranked LePage as the second worst governor in the nation in terms of transparency, cronyism, pressuring public officials and mismanagement. The lack of transparency and accountability has only worsened since then. …

Under LePage administration, state work being funneled to private sector
Source: Scott Thistle, Portland Press Herald, October 25, 2016

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration has increasingly moved to have private companies and nonprofits do the work of state government, from dispensing welfare benefits and providing mental health programs to running prisons and operating a drawbridge. But LePage is hardly alone in his quest to privatize some of the functions of state government. In the past decade, governors around the country, Republicans and Democrats alike, have looked to the private sector for ways to save taxpayer money or improve the delivery of services without increasing costs. … What’s less clear is how well privatization works. The record is mixed, with some public-to-private transitions moving smoothly and efficiently, while others break down, leading to more spending on services rather than less. … In Maine, it’s difficult to track whether privatization is increasing, said David Heidrich, communications director for the Department of Administration and Financial Services, which administers most of the state’s contracts. The LePage administration announced last month that it had selected a private company to operate the state’s ASPIRE program, under a $62 million contract that could eliminate 50 jobs in the Department of Health and Human Services. ASPIRE finds jobs for people who receive financial assistance through the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The ASPIRE contract was the latest of several privatization moves that LePage has made since he took office in 2011. The administration also has created privately run virtual and charter schools; put the state’s wholesale liquor business in private hands to generate money to pay off hospital debt; proposed a privately run mental health hospital to handle forensic patients currently in Riverview Psychiatric Center; outsourced the operation of Casco Bay Bridge to a Florida company; and hired private vendors to manage the MaineCare program that provides transportation to medical appointments. …

Editorial: LePage ensures that sound policy won’t get in the way of welfare privatization agenda
Source: Bangor Daily News, September 16, 2016

We hope Maine arrives at an arrangement with Fedcap that results in a program that promotes not only efficiency in administration but also provides the appropriate kind of help so low-income Mainers receiving assistance can escape poverty. But we have doubts on both counts. When the LePage administration announced its ASPIRE privatization plans last winter, it did so without a convincing rationale. The administration never made it clear what a contractor would do more effectively or more efficiently than the state could by keeping the program in house. … For a program that should be about helping people escape poverty, Fedcap’s job training and placement program, as outlined in its bid proposal, is remarkably light on the intervention that can make the most consequential difference in someone’s life and help her escape the seasonal, low-wage economy: education. The most common vocational training Fedcap outlines lasts six to 12 weeks, and the longest educational pursuit the proposal appears to allow lasts up to a year — not enough time for an assistance recipient to attain a degree. … On the efficiency side of the ledger, we have difficulty seeing how a contractor’s plan to rent 16 new offices instead of use existing state offices in all of the same cities and hire 140 employees to replace 81 state positions represents an optimal use of taxpayer dollars. It would, however, continue a LePage administration pattern of not allowing sound policy to get in the way of its ideologically driven plans for Maine’s assistance programs. …

Maine DHHS says outsourcing will provide more services to ASPIRE
Source: Don Carrigan, WCSH, September 14, 2016

The state Department of Health and Human Services says hiring a private contractor to take over part of a major welfare program will improve and expand the services to thousands of people. Maine DHHS is negotiating the final details of a contract for a non-profit group from New York to manage part of the ASPIRE program. DHHS intends to contract with Fedcap Rehabilitation Services for case management of the roughly three thousand people on ASPIRE, which is part of the larger program called TANF. … Advocates for the poor, including Chris Hastedt of Maine Equal Justice Partners, have raised concerns about the outsourcing plan. Hastedt says she is worried that some essential services may be neglected because of a sole focus on having people find jobs. Mary Mayhew insists the contract with Fedcap will provide more services than DHHS says it currently can. It will also need more money. DHHS officials say the state spends about $10 million per year on those case management services, with the work done by department staff. The bid from Fedcap is for more than $62 million over four years.  The Maine State Employees Association, the largest state worker union, says 51 DHHS employees stand to lose their jobs when the state outsources the case management services. …

Contractor says it plans to hire 140 Mainers to staff welfare-to-work program
Source: Kevin Miller, Central Maine.com, September 13, 2016

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a nearly $63 million contract with a New York nonprofit, Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, to operate the ASPIRE employment assistance program, which has repeatedly fallen short of meeting federal benchmarks. Now operated by DHHS, the program helps low-income individuals connect with job training, employers or education in order to transition them off the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. … But in its contract bid submitted to the state, Fedcap said its mission “is consistent with ASPIRE’s goal of gainful employment and work participation” and that the agency has helped place more than 14,000 TANF or other individuals in jobs since 2013. The organization stated that it plans to hire 140 Maine residents to work as Fedcap staff in 16 field offices. But Ramona Welton, president of the Maine State Employees Association SEIU Local 1989, estimated that 51 workers now handling the ASPIRE program could lose their jobs. Welton said she does not believe the contract being negotiated between DHHS and Fedcap includes any language allowing current employees to transfer their jobs to the nonprofit. …

LePage welfare privatization bid puts 51 state jobs on chopping block
Source: Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News, September 12, 2016

Gov. Paul LePage’s bid to privatize a work training program for welfare recipients is moving forward with up to 51 state jobs to be cut by the end of this year. LePage and his administration have been discussing privatizing the state’s ASPIRE program for months and are nearing approval of a $62.5 million contract with New York City-based Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, according to a report over the weekend by The Associated Press. … Ramona Welton, president of MSEA-SEIU Local 1989, which represents the majority of state workers, said Monday that 51 state jobs are on the line out of 81 positions in the ASPIRE program. The remaining 30 positions are unfilled because of retirements and resignations and have been left empty for weeks or months. … Neither the Department of Health and Human Services nor officials in the governor’s office responded to questions from the Bangor Daily News on Monday. DHHS announced the pending changes in January, stating in a news release that the ASPIRE program would be privatized and streamlined through the use of technology, innovation and collaboration with already established business and community partners. If the contract is signed, Fedcap would likely subcontract with nonprofits and community organizations to provide ASPIRE benefits. Currently, those benefits are offered in DHHS service centers, where ASPIRE employees are spread across Maine. ..

Gov. LePage to ‘privatize’ Maine’s $62.5M welfare program
Source: Marina Villaneuve, Associated Press, September 10, 2016

Republican Gov. Paul LePage wants to turn over the administration of Maine’s $62.5 million welfare program to a New York City-based nonprofit that’s faced a dozen state and federal lawsuits since 2013. Fedcap Rehabilitation Services acknowledges its recent litigation in its bid proposal to Maine officials while also describing its accomplishments. Since 2013, it’s paid out at least $403,000 in five settlements, the organization says. Court documents show the lawsuits include allegations of workplace discrimination and wage, disability and personal injury disputes. … Chris Hastedt of Maine Equal Justice Partners, a legal aid service, obtained a copy of the bid proposal through a public records request and expressed general concerns with turning over the federal-state program to the nonprofit. She says a contract with Fedcap could mean Maine’s welfare program will see higher administrative costs and diminished quality. … In its bid proposal, Fedcap says it’s secured more than 14,300 job placements for welfare recipients over the last three years, a record it says exceeds that of similar groups. Fedcap has a “very strong track record serving people with multiple barriers,” including the homeless, the organization says, and the Maine program will be run by a former Maine program leader, Christinei McKenzie. Fedcap says McKenzie will focus on creating a path out of poverty through work and job retention. … The governor’s efforts to reel in Maine’s cash assistance program fueled his 2014 re-election and gained praise from the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. LePage has tightened welfare rolls, combatted fraud and redirected flexible federal block grants to elderly Mainers instead of “able-bodied young adults.” In January, Bethany Hamm, director of the state Office of Family Independence, told employees the move to privatization comes from the state facing nearly $29 million in penalties for not meeting federal standards. …

How Maine quietly handed off financial oversight of a $23 million program for infants

Source: Erin Rhoda, Bangor Daily News, August 11, 2016

The LePage administration has made a point of putting more contracts out to bid. In an April email, Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Samantha Edwards said DHHS has sought to increase competition by issuing 100 to 125 requests for proposals this year compared with an average of 30 to 35 per year when the administration took office. … That’s one reason people in child advocacy and protection fields started asking questions in late winter when they learned a nonprofit was taking over administrative and financial duties of a statewide home visiting program called Maine Families without a competitive bidding process. The program operates on more than $9 million per year in federal and state funds and aims to help parents when it matters most for their infant’s long-term development. Dozens of interviews and documents show what led to a no-bid contract funded entirely with public dollars: a closed decision-making process, the state’s questionable justification to avoid competitive bidding, and limited communication about the transfer of a multimillion-dollar state program to the nonprofit sector. The circumstances raise questions about transparency and accountability. … The change in responsibility wasn’t widely communicated. The trust’s own director, Jan Clarkin, said she did not precisely know how the state awarded her organization the contract, which provided $3.46 million for administration, training, data collection and clinical consultation, and $19.42 million as funds to be passed through to the local home visiting agencies, over 2½ years starting April 1. … At $9.15 million per year, the award represented a 558 percent increase in the trust’s annual revenue, which was $1.39 million in 2013, the year of its most recently available tax filing. …

SOCIAL IMPACT BONDS

Source: Jessica Hathaway, NCSL, July 12, 2016
Overview

Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), a type of pay-for-success funding agreement, are a private financing mechanism used to fund social programs. SIBs are gaining interest from policymakers at all levels of government as a way to mitigate the simultaneous demands of tight budgets and rising social service costs. To date, state level SIB activity has centered on legislative efforts to authorize the process, create study committees, begin pilot projects, engage in feasibility studies and learn which types of programs this financing tool can be effectively used for. …

Use of Social Impact Bonds at the State Level

At least 24 states and the District of Columbia have considered, are considering or are implementing SIB related projects. Of these, 11 states—Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah —and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation. Legislative introductions and enactments range from establishing study committees to creating funds and supporting pilot projects. Enacted legislative actions are listed below. …

See list of enacted Social Impact Bond bills.

Sodexo Selected by the University of Maine System to Provide Contract Dining Operations at Six Institutions

Source: Sodexo Press Release, February 16, 2016

The University of Maine System (UMS), the state’s largest educational enterprise, selected Sodexo, a leader in delivering sustainable, integrated facilities management and foodservice operations to provide dining hall, retail, and food catering services at six of the system’s seven universities. Through this five-year contract, with option for five one-year renewals, Sodexo will begin managing those services for the UMS starting on July 1, 2016.

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UMS picks food services firm that promises more local sourcing
Source: Nick McCrea, Bangor Daily News, February 2, 2016

The University of Maine System has tentatively selected an international food services firm to feed students and staffers on six of the system’s seven campuses, officials announced Tuesday. … Sodexo’s proposal states the company will maintain costs at or below current levels and improve and expand the menu. … The system’s current food expenses are around $8.6 million, meaning that purchases from local producers are expected to surpass $1.5 million per year by 2020. Now the system must wait five days before entering contract negotiations with Sodexo. The wait period will allow the three other applicants that responded to the system’s request for food services proposals a chance to appeal the decision. That request was issued Aug. 31, and the deadline for submissions was Nov. 4.

University of Maine System chooses Sodexo as its food vendor, with a local focus
Source: Mary Pols, Portland Press Herald, February 2, 2016

The University of Maine System will award its five-year dining services contract, worth $12 million annually, to Sodexo, a global giant making big promises about serving up local food in campus cafeterias, university officials announced Tuesday. Based on current expenditures, that could translate to over $2 million in annual sales for Maine producers, farmers and harvesters. … Sodexo also agreed to an effort to retain the current nonmanagement dining staff and to invest up to $14 million in campus facilities, catering, internships and other activities.

Jay votes to enter into contract with Archie’s, sell trucks

Source: Donna Perry, Franklin Sun Journal, November 3, 2015

The Select Board voted Monday to enter into a contract with Archie’s Inc. of Mexico to provide curbside collection for trash and recyclables beginning Dec. 1. … They also voted to sell the town’s two trash trucks to Archie’s for $105,000, which will be used to offset the $120,000 cost for the first year of privatization. Other estimates for the trucks were $82,000 and $84,000, Public Works Foreman John Johnson said. Residents favored privatizing the service on Nov. 3 in an advisory vote to the Select Board with a vote of 457-322 to eliminate it. Currently, the town provides the service. Privatizing the service will save the town $130,000, while elimination would have saved $250,000.

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Jay voters favor privatizing trash pickup over elimination
Source: Donna Perry, Franklin Sun Journal, November 3, 2015

Residents voted Tuesday in favor of having the town contract with an outside company to provide curbside trash and recyclables pickup. … The vote was 457-322, Town Clerk Ronda Palmer said. The vote is considered an advisory vote to selectpersons as they look for ways to cut expenses in light of Verso Corp.’s proposed elimination of 300 jobs at its Androscoggin Mill. … Selectpersons told residents at a public hearing in September they couldn’t continue to support keeping the curbside pickup service as is because of the cost and the need to plan ahead in light of the Verso paper mill layoffs.

Editorial: Casco Bay Bridge privatization could lead Maine DOT down unknown road

Source: Portland Press Herald, November 6, 2015

But who runs and keeps up the span has been making headlines lately, after recent reports that the Maine Department of Transportation wants a private company to take over bridge operations. The MDOT hasn’t shared many details about the proposed privatization – and now is the time for it to get down to specifics. … Cutting expenses is the major factor driving the Casco Bay Bridge privatization plan, according to the MDOT. But the agency hasn’t said how much it spends now to operate or maintain the bridge, so we don’t know whether those costs are out of line with what other states shell out. The MDOT also says that operating and maintaining the bridge doesn’t address the agency’s “core mission,” unlike services such as plowing and road work. That’s a surprising shift in attitude, given that a 2007 MDOT report on Maine bridge safety called bridges “critical transportation assets.”

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For First Time, Maine Seeks Bids to Privatize Bridge’s Operations
Source: Jay Field, MPBN News, October 30, 2015

The operation and maintenance of the Casco Bay Bridge between the city and South Portland would be privatized, under bids being solicited by the Maine Department of Transportation. A transportation official says that the move will help save taxpayer dollars and allow the department to focus on its core mission — maintaining state roads. But the union representing bridge workers says the move could threaten public safety. … Feeley, the union’s general counsel, say the MSEA has as many as 10 full-time employees who work on the bridge. The workers, he says, have extensive training and a long track record of operating and maintaining the bridge safely. … This week’s request for bids marks the first time the state has moved to put the operation of a major bridge into private hands. … Private contractors have until Nov. 18 to submit bids to the Maine Department of Transportation.