December 17, 2021

In the public eye: Windham’s General Assistance Administrator Rene Daniel a beacon of hope for those in need of help

Rene J. Daniel has served as the General
Assistance Administrator with Windham's
Social Services Department since July 2011
and has helped many families experiencing
By Ed Pierce

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

Rene J. Daniel is a genuine problem solver and his work for the Town of Windham requires an extensive knowledge of various qualification requirements and how and where to receive help when it’s needed. It’s a monumental responsibility, but one that he takes in stride and he says that he’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish as a municipal employee.  

Daniel is the General Assistance Administrator with Windham Social Services Department, a position he’s worked at since July 2011, although he has 20-plus years of experience in the field.

The Town of Windham offers a General Assistance program for people in need. This program provides confidential financial assistance to Windham residents who are having difficulty meeting basic needs for housing, utilities, food, fuel oil, etc., as defined by local ordinance and state statute, MRSA 22, part 5 Chapter 1161.

The program is funded by local property taxes with 50 percent reimbursement from the state. All assistance is provided in voucher form and no cash assistance is granted.

As the General Assistance Administrator, Daniel works actively with applicants to ensure that appropriate in-house and outside community referrals are made to other support services.

His duties are complex and include scheduling, conducting interviews, completing applications, reviewing and verifying all submitted information, completing the formula for qualification, and determining an applicant’s unmet needs which are required for approval to the specific request for assistance for a qualification of a 30-day period.

“In my opinion, the best thing about what I do in my job is presenting options and resources to assist by social agencies and non-profits that can be accessed,” Daniel said.

It’s a highly significant role for the town, but one that Daniel has come to master.

“The most challenging aspect of what I do is to have individuals understand that the General Assistance Statute is our guidepost in determining qualifications,” he said. “The statute consists of 92 pages with articles that helps the GA Administrator come to a conclusion on whether a person qualifies or not.”

According to Daniel, many applicants are not aware that there are limits to what can be done to help.

“The biggest misconception people may have about your job is that General Assistance is a Queen Elizabeth I program that came to our country on the Mayflower to help with assistance with basic needs of food, rent, mortgage, electricity, LP gas, heating fuel, household and personal supplies, prescriptions and medical, water, sewer, and burial and cremation,” he said. “People generally do not understand the GA ordinance.

Not everyone is granted assistance due to the fact that it is based on income in, and allowable expenses to determine eligibility.”

However, knowing the resources and other non-profit federal, state and community agencies Daniel is allowed to guide applicants to receive needed assistance through other means. 

He says that the most memorable moment he can recall while working for the Town of Windham occurred when services were centralized at one location.

“The creation of the Social Service Department with the ‘One Stop Shopping for Assistance for General Assistance, Food Pantry, Clothes Closet, Medical Loan Closet and all resources under one roof is a financial and logical approach to assistance,” Daniel said.

He grew up in Westbrook and attended local schools there.

“I taught in the Westbrook School Department for 25 years,” Daniel said. “I was then with Westbrook Housing for 13 years. I attended college and earned a few degrees.”

He said he decided to apply for the job working for Windham after he sat down with several town officials a decade ago.

“After meeting the Town Manager, Human Resource Director and Finance Director, I saw their commitment and love for the residents and employees,” Daniel said.

His family is proud of his work.

“They like the satisfaction of each day being so eclectic,” Daniel said.

In his opinion, Daniel said the most important thing that the public should know about those who work for the Town of Windham is basic and demonstrates loyalty, dedication, and love of the people of Windham.

He said his advice for anyone considering working for the town as a career is basic.

“Know the citizens and residents of Windham and be impressed by the sincere generosity of the people for their fellow citizens,” Daniel said. <

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