AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services unlawfully spent over $13 million in federal funds in 2015 and 2016, but is unlikely to face a penalty for the misuse.

DHHS spent $13.4 million in welfare funds on services for elderly and disabled Maine residents. The Bangor Daily News reports federal law requires states to use money on programs for low-income families with children.

A 2016 report by State Auditor Pola Buckley highlighted the “improper management” of federal funds. Federal officials are currently reviewing the audit report. Maine DHHS is unlikely to face a penalty as it reversed its unlawful spending and retroactively returned the funding, meeting a 2016 deadline to return the funds.

DHHS has maintained it misspent the funds because department officials were unclear on federal rules.

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