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Introduce legislation establishing universal child care and homecare for seniors
On Monday, members of Maine’s child and senior care industries joined parents, policy experts and state legislators to unveil the details of a new campaign to create a state Universal Family Care System which would provide universal child care services for families with young children and universal homecare services for seniors and Mainers with disabilities.
The system would be designed to enable families with children under four years old to enroll, free of charge, in home-based or center-based childcare programs through a voucher system. All families in Maine would also be able to access homecare services for seniors and people with disabilities. The system would be funded by a payroll tax on income over $118,000.
"Maine is in the midst of a caregiving crisis. Right now the cost of childcare in Maine is the equivalent to a year’s worth of tuition at the University of Maine. At the same time, the number of Mainers over the age of 65 is expected to double over the next two decades, meaning over 110,000 more people will require aging services," said Maine People’s Alliance political engagement director Ben Chin. "Our economic system is not equipped for the needs of 21st century families, leaving Mainers to fend for themselves at exactly the time when they need care the most. Universal Family Care presents a comprehensive and modern social program that fills in the gaps—for families and for workers—created by the failures of this current system."
Tabatha Whalen, a mother of three from Portland, spoke of the difficulties balancing work with the ability to find care for her children.
"Before my son entered kindergarten he was on a waiting list for head start for 23 months. For six months I had to bring my son into work with me during my shift so that I wouldn’t lose my job. It took me another six months to find a sitter I trusted and could rely on," said Whalen. "It was such a relief to get help, but it made me feel like I was failing as a parent. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. I have so many friends and coworkers that face similar childcare problems with little if any affordable options."
"The way our child care system is funded is fundamentally flawed. In this country, and only in this country, child care is completely left up to the private market. For the average family, they are on their own. If you can pay and get in, great, but if you can’t, you’re out of luck," said Lori Moses, Executive Director of the Catherine Morrill Day Nursery in Portland. "If we really want children to reach their potential and fulfill the jobs of the 21st century, then we must find a different way to support children, families, the workplace and our economy. The Universal Family Care Plan is a roadmap of providing support in raising families at the beginning and end of life and for reimbursing some of the lowest paid workers who have a difficult, yet important role in our society."
"My work as a homecare aid means that seniors and persons with disabilities can stay home - closer to their family and friends, remain in the comfort of their home, and receive care in a more personal and non-institutional manner," said Mirkka Lyons of Boothbay Harbor who has worked in the industry for over 14 years. "Unfortunately it’s an imperfect system. Low pay, constant turnover, and a long qualification process means that we are often unable provide the level of care that many seniors need. This plan would make sure no one is left out or left behind. Just as critically, it acknowledges the important, difficult work of caregivers like me and starts to address some of problems affecting our industry."
Lawmakers at the press conference announced plans to introduce legislation to fully implement Universal Family Care system by 2021.
"We have an opportunity to stop our demographic slide and position Maine as a leader with a comprehensive approach to filling this critical care gap for young children," said Representative Heather Sanborn of Portland. "As a small business owner and a working mom, I am proud to be working on this initiative to change the conversation with regard to childcare and senior care and I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues to advance this effort."
"I am happy and proud to be the sponsor this session of legislation that will provide universal family care to meet the needs of all Maine families, regardless of income," said Representative Drew Gattine of Westbrook. "We know these problems exist and we know how important it is to solve them. Yet we nibble around the edges and - instead of really helping - we use our seniors and our kids and our neighbors with disabilities as political cannon fodder and do very little to solve the real problems they face every day."
"The time has come to make a real commitment to meeting the home care needs of Maine people from birth through end of life. It’s the right thing to do for our kids and seniors and people with disabilities and it’s the right thing to do for our economy and Maine’s future."
A copy of the Universal Family Care plan can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/2l3bt3I