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April 1, 2022

Mills signs bill to keep Maine Veterans' Homes in Machias, Caribou open

Courtesy / Office of Gov. Janet Mills Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday signs LD 2001 to keep open two facilities of Maine Veterans' Homes.

Gov. Janet Mills has signed a bill to keep the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Machias and Caribou open, and the nursing care provider said its board would soon meet to discuss next steps for the two facilities.

Mills on Thursday signed the legislation, LD 2001, sponsored by state Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook. Mills also has proposed $3.5 million in her budget change package to prevent the imminent closure of the two nursing homes, which care for at least 70 veterans and their spouses. The budget is currently being considered by the Legislature,

“The Maine Veterans’ Homes Board of Trustees will meet soon to discuss all factors associated with our Machias and Caribou Homes, including LD 2001,” Maine Veterans’ Home said in a statement.

But for now the Maine Veterans' Home has not committed to a long-term strategy for the two homes. 

The nonprofit said last month it would close the Caribou and Machias facilities this spring, citing operational losses, a decline in the number of residents and difficulty hiring workers. Together, the two homes have routinely lost about $2 million annually for several years, the nonprofit has said. This year, they are on track to lose $3 million.

The bill requires legislative approval for the establishment and closure of veterans' homes, which were chartered by the Maine Legislature in 1977 to provide long-term care to veterans and eligible military spouses. The original legislation also specifically stated where the homes must be located.

“In Augusta, politicians talk an awful lot about standing up for rural Maine, fighting for rural Maine and making sure rural Maine doesn’t get left behind. We often use the same lofty rhetoric to talk about our veterans. Today, with the help of Gov. Mills, the Maine Legislature matched those words with action by passing LD 2001 and keeping our promise to Maine veterans,” Jackson said.

The Maine Veterans’ Homes currently operates 640 beds across its six facilities in Augusta, Caribou, Bangor, Machias, Scarborough, and South Paris. The nonprofit is separate from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.

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