Friday, March 13, 2015

Passamaquoddy tribe to take hit from Gov. LePage poor relief reform

State House-watchers in Maine have been discussing Gov. Paul LePage's plan to reform the way the state compensates towns who provide emergency poor relief, "General Assistance" in local parlance. The governor's plan: that frugal municipalities should be rewarded and "free-spending" cities like Portland should be punished with cuts.

As I report in today's Portland Press Herald, the hardest hit communities under the proposed reform are two remote, rural, and extremely poor Indian reservations in eastern Washington County. On a per capita basis, they'll see far and away the most extreme cuts if the plan goes through.

But, as the story asks, why are those reservations spending such staggering sums on General Assistance: over a quarter million dollars a year in the case of Indian Township, population 718, or more than forty times that of the similarly-sized Penobscot reservation at Indian Island and about thirty times that of Indian Township's immediate neighbor, Princeton, population 832.

Tribal officials refuse to say, but a former chief has an unpleasant answer.

For more on the Passamaquoddy, consider "Unsettled", the 32-part serial that ran in the Press Herald this past summer, also available as an ebook.

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