The Maine Department Of Health And Human Services says it is reopening an office in the Calais area.
The department announced Thursday that it has signed a 20-year lease to open a full-time facility in the city this fall.
This comes after the LePage administration closed the previous office three years ago, and operated a satellite office for up to two days a week. Local residents protested the closure, and some nonprofits in Washington County say the lack of in-person resources over the past three years has made it difficult for many to access public assistance.
The department says the new office is expected to open in October and will be staffed by 10 employees from programs that include the Maine CDC and Office of Child and Family Services.
DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew says the department leased the new office after hearing complaints from residents in eastern Washington County.
"It's a long way between regional offices. And we wanted to make sure that people in the Calais area had access to the types of services that you can only get in person. And we wanted to make sure that the people in that region were well-represented," she says.
Republican Sen. Marianne Moore, who represents the region, says closing the former office meant that area residents were forced to drive long distances to access in-person services such as MaineCare or food stamps.
"This is something that city officials have been really hoping for and have written letters requesting it. Because we saw what a burden it was putting on citizens in the area. So this is just awesome news today," she says.