AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is taking immediate steps to ensure access to critical services and benefits for Maine people while protecting the health of employees and the public in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
"We are acting swiftly to maintain Maine people's access to health care coverage, nutritious food, and support for basic necessities in the face of COVID-19, while also safeguarding their health and the health of our valued employees," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.
These steps include supporting MaineCare members through the implementation of emergency rules effective Wednesday, March 18 that will:
MaineCare telehealth policy already allows providers and members to meet any face-to-face requirements for services through telehealth, when medically appropriate and when it will result in comparable quality of service. For services that traditionally have not been considered medically appropriate or of comparable quality via telehealth, such as Intensive Outpatient Treatment or Home and Community-Based Treatment, providers are encouraged to consider alternative treatment options that could be more appropriately delivered via telehealth (such as one-on-one counseling visits).
Additionally, DHHS has made two changes effective immediately that do not require emergency rulemaking. First, to the greatest extent allowable under federal law, DHHS will accept eligibility verification by self-attestation to facilitate efficient processing of MaineCare applications and recertifications. Second, we will waive premiums for MaineCare services, such as the Working Disabled, Cub Care, Katie Beckett, and Special Benefit programs. Failure to pay those premiums will not result in case closure.
DHHS is also acting to support social distancing in our 16 regional offices, without disrupting critical benefits and services. In line with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DHHS is limiting its interactions with the public to accepting paperwork for drop-off. Clients are being encouraged to fill out and submit applications and reviews for programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and MaineCare online through My Maine Connection. Paperwork may be submitted via fax, email or postal carrier. The toll-free number is 1 (855) 797-4357 and agents are available from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
DHHS offices remain open at this time, and clients can fill out applications in person if they prefer. If clients need assistance, they will be encouraged to call the toll-free number to speak with an agent.
DHHS also issued an emergency rule effective Friday, March 13 allowing all TANF application and annual review interviews, which are required to determine eligibility, to be held by telephone rather than in person. TANF orientations, which are completed during the application process, also will be held by phone rather than through visits to one of the Department's vendor locations, also known as Fedcap Opportunity Centers. Fedcap is limiting in-person contact for ASPIRE participants, encouraging and facilitating remote participation.
DHHS also will limit in-person interviews for fraud investigations and quality control audits, and will hold all administrative hearings by telephone.
DHHS has requested approval from the federal government as needed to allow for additional flexibility, including extending annual review periods for TANF, SNAP and MaineCare for up to three months.
These preliminary steps will help to streamline access to essential benefits and DHHS will continue to implement additional strategies as they become available.
Anyone with general questions about COVID-19, including how Maine people can best protect themselves, options for testing, and travel considerations should call 211. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Anyone with severe symptoms (difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; persistent pain or chest pressure; new confusion or inability to arouse; bluish lips or face) should call 911 and go to a hospital emergency department.
Anyone looking for specific medical advice regarding symptoms they may be experiencing should call his or her primary care provider.
According to the Governor's Insurance Emergency Response Order:
'First-Dollar Coverage of COVID-19 Screening and Testing: To ensure that cost does not create a barrier for consumers receiving medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19, I direct all health insurance carriers to make these services available with no deductible, copayment, or other cost sharing of any kind, or any prior authorization requirement, including all associated costs such as processing fees and clinical evaluations. I appreciate the proactive measures taken by those carriers that are already doing so on their own initiative. Patients may be encouraged to visit their primary care practitioners or other network providers for screening visits, but the only situation in which carriers will be permitted to impose out-of-network charges is when the enrollee was offered the service in-network without additional delay but chose instead to visit an out-of-network provider or be tested by an out-of-network laboratory.'
Read full order below for details...
Governor's full press conference...
AUGUSTA —A new law has gone into effect that increases the ethics and transparency of how legislators use political action committees (PACs).
Sen. Justin Chenette's bill LD 256, “An Act To Ban the Use of Leadership Political Action Committees for Personal Profit” passed the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously last year. The Governor signed the measure into law.
This law will prevent legislators and candidates from profiting off political contributions by using PACs to loan their private business money. It will also bar individuals from commingling personal and PAC funds to avoid possible misuse.
“Every single Democrat, Republican, and Independent spoke loud and clear that closing this campaign finance loophole is the right thing to do,” said Sen. Chenette. “Mainers deserve a political system that benefits the public good rather than coating the lines of insiders’ pockets.”
After a Republican legislative leader had to step down from his leadership role due to ethics issues in 2017, Sen. Chenette knew we needed to look deeper at legislative-led PACs. It turns out, at that time, it wasn’t illegal for a legislator to use a PAC, which can accept unlimited amounts of money, as a personal or business slush fund. This new law limits the likelihood of further abuses of PACs.
This law is a part of Sen. Chenette’s successful campaign finance reform package, which includes LD 76, “An Act To Strengthen the Integrity of the Legislature by Extending the Waiting Period before Legislators May Engage in Any Amount of Compensated Lobbying,” that became law with the Governor's signature and LD 54, “An Act To Limit the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions,” which has since become law without the Governor’s signature.
Sen. Chenette is Chair of the Government Oversight Committee and is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee.
AUGUSTA — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Justin Chenette to end the revolving door of lawmakers becoming lobbyists became law after Governor Janet Mills signed the measure.
LD 76, “An Act To Strengthen the Integrity of the Legislature,” bans legislators from any compensated lobbying for a full year after their legislative service ends.
The bill passed both the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously last year.
“We must limit the undue influence lobbyists have over our government, and nothing speaks to this issue more than lawmakers and lobbyists swapping roles,” says Sen. Chenette. “Closing this loophole ensures former lawmakers will have to follow transparency and ethics rules and hopefully discourage them from getting a lucrative lobbying gig so soon after they leave elected office.”
Current law had allowed former legislators to immediately become lobbyists at the conclusion of their legislative service as long as it’s less than 8 hours a month. LD 76 closed this loophole by requiring a full year waiting period before any compensated lobbying could take place. The AP ran a story highlighting the issue here.
Back in 2017, the Maine Ethics Commission voted to recommend a similar solution to bar all lobbying by former legislators in the first year after their tenure ends. This bill is modeled on their suggestion.
“Questions of fair access may be exacerbated when some lobbyists have easier access to lawmakers than others, especially for revolving door lobbyists — those former legislators or executive branch officials who leave the government to go into the private sector and work to influence their former colleagues,” said Ann Luther, Advocacy Chair of the Maine League of Women Voters, which endorsed the proposal.
This bill is part of larger campaign finance reform package from Sen. Chenette. LD 256, “An Act To Ensure Responsible Operation of Political Action Committees,” was signed into law by the governor, and LD 54, “An Act To Limit the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions,” has since become law without the Governor’s signature.
Sen. Chenette is Chair of the Governor Oversight Committee and is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee
AUGUSTA — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, to reduce the outside influence of money in politics became law this weekend. LD 54, “An Act To Limit the Influence of Lobbyists by Expanding the Prohibition on Accepting Political Contributions,” puts restrictions on lobbyists using their money to influence electoral and policy outcomes.
“We have achieved another anti-corruption win,” said Sen. Chenette. “We are holding lobbyists more accountable now than ever before, and we’re preventing undue influence, to ensure we have a government that truly works for Maine people.”
AUGUSTA — The Legislative Council approved a bill from Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, to improve existing campaign finance laws by clearly defining in statute what a caucus political action committee is (PAC) in statute.
Sen. Chenette worked with the staff at the Maine Ethics Commission to introduce LR 2667, “An Act To Define the Term ‘Caucus Political Action Committee’” after several years of the commission pushing for the change.
“You can’t regulate something that doesn’t exist in law,” said Sen. Chenette. “This builds on the success we had this past session around PAC reform to fix a discrepancy, prevent future ambiguity, and ensure transparency and ethical standards are met.”
SACO – Senator Justin Chenette has published a children’s coloring and activity book entitled, The Great Whoopie Pie Debate: How Your Idea Becomes Maine Law.
“The goal is to provide the next generation the tools necessary to understand how their own government works,” says Sen. Chenette, author of the book. “I wanted a fun and interactive way for kids to connect to the lessons being taught in the classroom on their path to become active and engaged citizens.”
Published by Bryson Taylor Publishing, the 32-page coloring book visually demonstrates how a law is made from start to finish with a real-life illustration of when Maine legislators debated the state dessert.
Included in the book is an educational activity section for children to solve puzzles, crosswords, and fill-in-the-blanks along with fun facts about the Pine Tree State.
This is Senator Chenette’s first book to be published. All proceeds from the book will benefit college scholarships for local high school students. For ordering information and behind the scenes video on the illustration process, visit www.WhoopiePie.org.
AUGUSTA — Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, has been appointed to serve as Chair of the Marijuana Advisory Commission by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. The commission studies best practices to implement adult-use and medical cannabis laws, rules and programs in Maine and makes recommendations to the Legislature.
“It’s critical we continue to work diligently toward establishing an adult-use marketplace as supported by Maine voters, while ensuring that public health and safety is a top priority,” said. Sen. Chenette. “As we’ve seen with alcohol, there is always a need to be refining and improving regulations to ensure a responsible relationship between businesses, law enforcement and the public.”
AUGUSTA — Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, has been appointed to serve on the Maine Climate Council’s coastal and marine working group by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. The working group will study and make recommendations regarding the effects of climate change on Maine’s coast and marine resources.
“Climate change is an existential threat to our entire way of life here in Maine,” said Sen. Chenette. “We must work to find sustainable solutions that will protect Maine’s beautiful coastline from rising sea levels, lobstering and fishing industries from warming waters, and our entire natural resources-based economy.”
Rep. Justin Chenette
Press Releases and News Stories about the work being done in the local community and in the state legislature.