Maine has left over $1.9 billion in federal funds on the table for health care, public assistance, public health and infrastructure programs since Gov. Paul LePage took office, according to a new report by the liberal-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy. The authors of the report estimate that the foregone funds could have injected about $700 million into the local economy and created about 4,800 jobs per year.  

Approximately one-third of the state budget comes from the federal government.

Since 2011, the LePage administration has relinquished over $1.3 billion in federal health care funding, nearly $387 million in federal assistance for low-income families, almost $22 million for public health programs and about $198 million for infrastructure projects. According to the study, the losses of federal funds were either because the state refused to accept the money, failed to apply for grants it had received in the past or didn’t leverage enough state funds to maximize federal matches. 

“Policy makers need to be frugal,” wrote the authors of the MECEP report. “They also have to act with foresight and in ways proven to help Mainers prosper. Turning away federal funds so that people suffer from addiction and chronic disease, families go hungry, and roads and public structures crumble will not strengthen Maine’s economy. Securing and using federal resources to invest in public health, education, and infrastructure will.”

The report notes that the LePage administration has passed on over $1 billion for its failure to expand Medicaid; $244 million in federal Medicaid matching funds after it cut thousands of low-income Mainers from the MaineCare rolls; $59.5 million for not budgeting the matching funds to maximize federal funding for health care for low-income children; and $5.8 million for its refusal to set up a state health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. 

MECEP also estimates that Maine lost nearly $142 million in federal food assistance funds after it revoked eligibility for thousands of poor Mainers; over $200 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as a result of tightening eligibility requirements in the program; and $44 million for failing to maximize federal funds for child-care support programs for low-income parents and refusing to apply for or renew federal grants for early childhood education programs.

On the public health front, MECEP notes that Maine has declined $3 million in federal funding for opioid addiction treatment, $3 million for mental health treatment for young adults, $300,000 to expand services for people with Alzheimer’s disease,  $4 million to assist high-risk teen parents, $1 million for colorectal screening for uninsured older Mainers, and $300,000 for drinking water testing. The report also notes that Maine has refused to fill federally funded visiting nurse positions and has not fully used federal grants to provide nursing services to low-income families with newborns and to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

As far as infrastructure, MECEP estimates that Maine has foregone about $196 million in matching federal funds to repair roads, bridges, drinking water and wastewater systems due to its failure to leverage state bonds and other revenue. The LePage administration also refused to accept $450,000 in federal funds for pollution prevention assistance to businesses and pased over $1.7 million in federal forest legacy funds to preserve working forest land.