November 13, 2023
Greetings Community Advocates,
The recent tragic events both near and far are at the forefront of all our minds. As we process the horrible acts of violence, it is important not to fall into a place of hopelessness. At United Way of Southern Maine, we believe building and strengthening community is at the heart of how we get out of this horrible cycle of violence and hatred. And we believe everyone has a role to play. Our voices, our time, and our resources support and strengthen systems and our community’s resilience.
ALICE in Maine Report Reveals Financial Hardship
On October 26, United Ways of Maine unveiled a report, ALICE in Maine: A Study of Financial Hardship, in the Hall of Flags at the State House in Augusta, bringing to light the financial struggles of nearly half of all Mainers. We are eager to get to work with lawmakers and partners to reverse the trends found in this report.
The ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) reports reveals that approximately one-third of employed Mainers living above the federal poverty level still struggle to afford basic living expenses. This problem is exacerbated by the 12% of Mainers living below the poverty line, resulting in 42% of the state’s population barely making ends meet. The report focuses on the ALICE population, hardworking individuals in low-paying jobs with little savings, making them one emergency away from poverty. Various industries, including cooks, nursing assistants, and cashiers, are facing financial difficulties. ALICE is many of us. ALICE is our neighbor, our family, and our friends.
The report highlights that a family of four in Maine requires an annual income of around $71,000 to cover basic necessities, significantly higher than the federal poverty level of $26,000. Income thresholds vary across the state, with northern and rural counties facing more significant challenges than their southern urban counterparts. Even with pandemic support in 2021, families with two full-time workers in common jobs like retail sales and personal care aides still fell short by over $14,000.
The central issue identified in the report is the disparity between earnings and the cost of essentials. While the cost of living has steadily risen, wages for certain professions, such as retail workers, have increased more slowly. The report also indicates a growing number of households struggling, especially among young people, seniors, and minority communities.
Disproportionately affected groups include Black and Hispanic households, as well as those under 25 and over 65 years old. Furthermore, the report warns that the economic situation for these ALICE category individuals may have worsened since the data was collected in 2021, particularly with pandemic relief benefits expiring.
Maine’s ALICE report is described as one of the most comprehensive depictions of financial need in the state, highlighting the inadequacy of traditional poverty statistics. Nationally, 41% of U.S. households fall at or below the ALICE threshold, with Maine ranking 30th among states, having the highest percentage of struggling residents in New England.
You can access the interactive data dashboard and the full ALICE in Maine: A Study of Financial Hardship report at aliceinmaine.org. ALICE data are available at the municipal, county, and legislative district level.
Next Legislative Session
Cloture, the deadline to submit bills for the session, for the Second Regular Session of the 131st Legislature was Friday, September 29, 2023 at 4 p.m. The Second Regular Session of the 131st Legislature begins January 3, 2024. Statutory adjournment is April 17, 2024.
Some legislative proposals are still under consideration or have been carried over to the next session, like LD 1074, an affordable housing initiative with $100 million allocated for the construction of new affordable housing units and the conversion of existing structures. We will remain vigilant in monitoring this bill in the upcoming session.
Key Outcomes from the First Session of the 131st Maine Legislature
On Wednesday, October 25, over 450 new laws took effect in Maine, covering a wide range of topics. United Way of Southern Maine played a role in enacting some of these laws that support community:
- Support for Working Families: Legislation was enacted to bolster Maine’s economy by enhancing child care support for working families, demonstrating a strong commitment to the well-being of our workforce and their children.
- Financial Stability and Educational Opportunities: We helped secure ongoing funding to waive tuition and fees for up to two years for high school graduates and GED recipients, facilitating greater access to higher education and workforce development.
- Health Care Professional Support: Under the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, we’ve made strides in assisting health care professionals with student loan forgiveness, ensuring they have the necessary support to thrive in our communities.
The Biennial Budget, LD 258, includes provisions for ongoing funding to a coalition of 50 organizations providing free volunteer tax assistance and financial education services, bolstering our collective financial literacy and stability.
Looking ahead, we remain dedicated to advancing legislation that reflects our values of community support, economic stability, and inclusive growth. The successes of this session set a strong foundation for future initiatives, and we look forward to building on these achievements.
You can see the full breakdown of our legislative successes and shortcomings in our 2023 Legislative Scorecard. While we are proud of what we have accomplished, we know there is much more to be done.
Sign-up for Advocacy Alerts
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If you would like to know more about how you can advocate for a thriving community, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for raising your hand and offering your support as a volunteer, donor, and advocate. Together we are creating a Southern Maine where everyone can thrive.
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