Senate President Troy Jackson, who aims to save Maine Veteran Homes in Caribou and Machias with a bill that would pay the facilities’ back debts, feels confident the legislation will pass.
Maine Veterans Homes said last week it would close its facilities in Machias and Caribou effective April 15 and May 1, respectively. Lawmakers in Augusta and Washington, D.C., have sent letters to the organization asking it to reconsider the closings because they provide necessary services and are conveniently located to veterans in some of Maine’s most rural areas. The nonprofit cited decreasing numbers of veterans, significant financial losses and difficulty hiring workers as reasons for the closures.
Maine Veterans Homes has said it will keep the two facilities open until all residents have been relocated. Caribou has 24 residential care and 33 nursing unit residents, as well as 76 employees. Machias has 23 in residential care and 49 employees.
The Machias and Caribou homes have lost a combined total of $2 million a year for the last several years, the nonprofit’s spokesperson Christine Henson said last week. The facilities are on track to lose a combined $3 million this year.
Jackson’s bill, LD 2001, would allow the state to fund the homes with one-time payments to eliminate their debts for the last two years. Due to being a nonprofit, Maine Veterans Homes is not eligible to receive funds otherwise, and has relied on donations and outside funding up to this point.
The bill will only need a simple majority of the Legislature to be passed.
Jackson and his team feel confident that LD 2001 will pass, according to Christine Kirby, a spokesperson for Jackson.
“I haven’t heard too much about any opposition. If anything, we’ve received an outpouring of support from members of the public who are grateful we are doing something to try to save these facilities. I think there’s an understanding that we have a commitment to our veterans,” Kirby said Monday.
Maine Veterans Homes did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee will hold a public hearing on the bill at 2 p.m. Wednesday.