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  • Maine Joins Coalition of 17 States to Defend National Clean Car Rules

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx
    During the first week in April, Maine Attorney General Janet Mills joined a coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia in suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to preserve the greenhouse gas emission standards currently in place for model year 2022-2025 vehicles. 
    This 17 state coalition represents approximately 44 percent of the U.S. population and 43 percent of the new car sales market nationally.
    The standards save drivers money at the pump, reduce oil consumption, and curb greenhouse gases.
    "We will not stand quietly by and watch the Trump Administration unwind important federal environmental protections, and these greenhouse gas emission standards for vehicles are critical to curbing the impacts of climate change. Our suit today will ensure EPA does not get away with scrapping these rules when it has no factual or legal basis to do so," said Mills.

    Beginning in 2010, the EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and California Air Resources Board established a single national program of greenhouse gas emissions standards for model year 2012-2025 vehicles. This program allows automakers to design and manufacture to a single target. The federal standards the states are suing to protect, for model year 2022-2025 vehicles, are estimated to reduce carbon pollution equivalent to 134 coal power plants burning for a year and to save drivers $1,650 per vehicle.
    At present, the car industry is on track to meet or exceed these standards. Last year, the EPA affirmed these standards were appropriate based on an extensive record of data. On April 13, 2018, however, the EPA, without evidence to support the decision, arbitrarily reversed course and claimed that the greenhouse gas emissions standards for model years 2022-2025 vehicles should be scrapped.
    The Administration offered no evidence to support this decision and deferred any analysis to a forthcoming rulemaking designed to try to weaken the existing 2022-2025 standards. 
    Today's lawsuit was filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The lawsuit is based on the fact that the EPA acted arbitrarily and capriciously, failed to follow its own Clean Car regulations, and violated the Clean Air Act.
    Joining Maine in today's lawsuit filing were the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania (also filed by and through its Department of Environmental Protection), Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. Minnesota filed by and through its Pollution Control Agency and Department of Transportation.
  • Flower pots and xylophones create computer science fun at Maine Libraries sparking interest

    Photo: Mohegan Library in the Maine summertime 

    By Ramona du Houx

    Brightly painted clay, splashing water, and beeping Beethoven are part of computer science and electronics projects that will be coming to public libraries across Maine due to a new partnership between the Maine State Library and Gizmo Garden LLC. 

    "One of the core goals of the Maine State Library is to ensure that Maine's underserved populations get access to high-quality programs, and the new partnership fills that role in two ways," said James Ritter, the Maine State Librarian. "First, it will address Maine's gender gap in computer science, which is markedly worse than the national average, using programming that's proven to be enjoyed as much by girls as by boys. Second, it will allow us to take this programming anywhere in Maine, including to small rural libraries where students may have no other exposure to computer science."
    The groups are joining forces to address Maine's growing need for more computer professionals by sparking the interest of the state's youth. MSL will contribute personnel, experience and a library network, while Gizmo Garden will contribute curriculum, supplies, and what's intended to be over $100,000 in funding.
    Explaining the content of the programs, Gizmo Garden Technical Director Bill Silver says, "Gizmo Garden programs combine some element of artistic expression with electronic circuitry, robotics, and computer programming," said Gizmo Garden Technical Director Bill Silver.
    "For example, in the new "Invisible Xylophone" program we'll be testing out at Skidompha in May, students will mount a gyroscope and accelerometer on the tip of a drumstick, and wire that input to a microcontroller, which will then send output to a speaker. Students will write code for the microcontroller so that the pitch of a tone beeped out by the speaker depends on the angle at which you're holding the drumstick when you stroke it downward as if you were playing an invisible xylophone. Students can use their musical instruments to compose songs or to play old favorites like Beethoven's Ode to Joy."

    Programs will be led by Christina Dorman, the library's STEM Liaison.
    "I've already led Gizmo Garden programs at Skidompha Library in Damariscotta, and it is such a blast to see kids light up when their creations come to life. I can't wait to get on the road and bring the fun to more students," said Dorman. "The first program we'll present is RoboPots, during which students craft a plant pot and then rig the electronics to make it automatically self-watering. It's a great to have such fun introductory projects that may lead kids to discover an interest in the field without the stress of competitions."

    Judy Silver, Program Director of Nobleboro-based Gizmo Garden explains, "We've been working with local students and teachers for five years now, starting off at Skidompha where director Pam Gormley had the vision to kick off creative electronics programming. Since then, we've developed a number of projects and have helped leaders to conduct them at Skidompha, at Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library, at Bristol Consolidated School, and at the Upward Bound program at Bowdoin College."
    "We've learned a lot and have refined our programs and practices to maximize the fun that diverse students have being introduced to engineering. Now we're ready to take our curricula to a broader audience, and Chris Dorman is the perfect person for that, backed by the Maine State Library which is a great organization."

    Mainers who are interested in having their students attend Gizmo Garden programs should reach out to their local library, which should contact Chris Dorman, christina.dorman@maine.gov. 
  • Health Care advocates sue Gov. LePage to force compliance with Medicaid Expansion Law

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine Equal Justice Partners, Consumers for Affordable Health Care, Maine Primary Care Association and Penobscot Community Health Care filed suit along with five individuals against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to compel the agency to begin implementing Medicaid expansion as required by state law.

    The lawsuit lays out the facts about the Medicaid expansion law, which was overwhelmingly passed by voters in November 2017.

     “There are no excuses to deny health care to more than 70,000 Mainers,” said Kathy Phelps, a member of the leadership team for Mainers for Health Care, which advocated for Medicaid expansion at the ballot box. “Some of the individual plaintiffs wanted to be here today but could not because they are in poor health. They are home, waiting to see a doctor, waiting to be well. Lives are on the line. It’s time to respect the vote and implement the law.” 

    The law passed by voters last November required Maine DHHS to submit a plan for implementation to the federal government by April 3, 2018. Because that deadline passed, the plaintiffs say it is clear that DHHS commissioner Ricker Hamilton either failed or refused to take the steps necessary to extend affordable health care to Mainers who earn roughly 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $16,753. 

    “The LePage administration is breaking the law,” said Jack Comart, an attorney with Maine Equal Justice Partners. “People have a right to coverage starting in July, and the Department of Health and Human Services cannot ignore the law. We are asking the court to order the department to simply follow the law and take immediate action to begin implementing Medicaid expansion.”

     Comart noted that the five individuals in the suit, “come from all over Maine, and they’re struggling to overcome poor health and disabilities. Some of them are working, others are caring for disabled children. They all will be eligible for Medicaid, according to Maine’s new law, on July 2.”

    “The governor’s inaction and the Department of Health and Human Services’ failure to follow the law will directly harm these families and thousands more in every part of Maine.” 

    • The Medicaid expansion law required Maine DHHS to submit a State Plan Amendment to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by April 3, 90 days after the Jan. 3 effective date.
    • The Medicaid Expansion Act sets no conditions for the submission of the State Plan Amendment.
    • The commissioner of DHHS has failed or refused to submit the State Plan Amendment as required by law.

    “Gov. Paul LePage has claimed that he could not submit a State Plan Amendment without funding from the Legislature,” said James Kilbreth, the lead attorney on the lawsuit and a partner at Drummond Woodsum. “Submitting a State Plan Amendment does not require funding from the Legislature. The administration has a responsibility and obligation to take the necessary steps to implement the law the voters passed.”

    The Legislature does not need to appropriate additional funds for Medicaid Expansion, at this time. There is enough funding already budgeted for the program until at least next May or June of 2019 – this is true whether you use the cost estimates from the administration, the non-partisan state fiscal office or a recent independent study factoring in the experience of the 31 other states that have already expanded. 

    Maine has a revenue surplus of $140.5 million to cover any necessary costs for administration and services through SFY 2019.

    Maine Equal Justice Partners is a civil legal aid organization that represents Maine people with low income in areas of economic security, including access to healthcare.

     

     

     

  • UMaine research examines abrupt climate change impacts in maritime Europe

     

    Irish World and Siliconrepublic.com reported on a recent study by a team of researchers from NUI Galway and the University of Maine, which suggests the physical impact of abrupt climate change in Ireland, Britain and maritime Europe may be markedly different to what was once thought.

    In a paper published in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, the team wanted to investigate how abrupt climate changes, such as high-magnitude shifts in average climate, have impacted maritime Europe at the close of the last ice age, Siliconrepublic.com reported.

    By analyzing ancient shells found in Scotland, the team’s data challenges the idea that the “Younger Dryas” period was an abrupt return to an ice age climate in the North Atlantic, by showing that the last glaciers there were actually decaying rapidly during that period, the article states.

    “This finding is controversial and, if we are correct, it helps rewrite our understanding of how abrupt climate change impacts our maritime region, both in the past and potentially into the future,” said the study’s lead author, Gordon Bromley of NUI Galway’s School of Geography and Archaeology and UMaine’s Climate Change Institute.

  • Local author Esther Pasztory featured on PBS Civilizations series

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    Local author Esther Pasztory is featured on PBS Civilizations series during an interview in the second episode to be aired on April 24, 2018. Episode 2 explores how we look at the human body in art.

     Esther Pasztory is an author and Professor emeritus of pre-Columbian Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. She’s a specialist in her field. Her most recent books are “Aliens and Fakes: Popular Theories about the Origins of Ancient Americans,” “Conversations with Quetzalcoatl and Other Stories” and “Jean-Frederic Waldeck: Artist of Exotic Mexico.”

    Esther lived in Deer Isle and Kennebunk, Maine, with her husband, the artist Richard Eaton. Late in 2017 they moved to San Francisco, but often reture to family in Maine.

    CIVILIZATIONS is a nine-part series that tells the story of art from the dawn of human history to the present day —for the first time on a global scale. Inspired by Civilisation, Kenneth Clark’s acclaimed landmark 1969 series about Western art, this new series broadens the canvas to reveal the role art and the creative imagination have played across multiple cultures and civilizations. http://www.pbs.org/civilizations/home/

     More about Pasztory:

    Esther Pasztory is Lisa and Bernard Selz Professor emeritus of pre-Columbian Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. She has published extensively in the field of pre-Columbian art, including the first art historical manuscripts on Teotihuacan and the Aztecs.

    Born in Hungary, she emigrated to the United States in 1956, after the anti-Communist revolution. She attended Vassar College and Barnard Collage where she received a BA in art history.

    With her dissertation at Columbia, entitled The Murals of Tepantitla, Teotihuacan, she received her PhD in 1971. 

    Books by Esther Pasztory:

    1. Aliens and Fakes: Popular Theories about the Origins of Ancient Americans
    2. Conversations with Quetzalcoatl and Other Stories
    3. Jean-Frederic Waldeck: Artist of Exotic Mexico
    4. Inka Cubism: Reflections on Andean Art
    5. Remove Trouble from Your Heart
    6. Thinking with Things: Toward a New Vision of Art
    7. Daughter of the Pyramids: Colonial Tales
    8. Pre-Columbian Art
    9. Teotihuacan: An Experiment in Living
    10. Aztec Art
  • Gov. Baldacci’s answer to ‘what have you done for the people today?

    Photo by Ramona du Houx of Gov. Baldacci signing legislation in 2017.

    Editorial by David Farmer, former jounalist and communications director for 4 years for Gov. Baldacci.


    Former Gov. John Baldacci is being honored this week by the University of Maine with the Alumni Career Award.

    He’s earned it – and a lot more – for a lifetime of public service all dedicated to fighting for the people of Maine.

    Partially due to the time in which he served and partially due to his own personality, Baldacci does not often get the credit he deserves as both a politician and an innovative, boundary pushing political leader.


    Former Gov. John Baldacci got oil from Citgo during a crisis to help those in need. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Baldacci, now retired from politics, has won a lot of elections. He’s served on the Bangor City Council, in the State Senate, eight years as the congressman from Maine’s 2ndCongressional District and eight years as governor of the state.

    That alone would be enough to cement his legacy in Maine politics. It’s a tremendous track record of achievement. But to remember just his electoral success doesn’t do justice to his many accomplishments.

    Let’s start with Baldacci personality and attitude: In the four years I worked for him, I never saw him say a nasty or mean word aimed at either friend or political foe. His favorite expression when Republicans would savage him, which they did often, was to say: “They should aim before they shoot.”

    Sure, he got angry and frustrated at times. But he never let it become personal. He tried to let the insults and political theater aimed in his direction simply roll off. Better to be the adult, better to match the barbs with a smile and an extended hand.

    He also taught me two of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned about politics: Be gracious and share credit, it doesn’t cost you anything; and try to remember who’s married to whom.

    Baldacci racked up a list of accomplishments that demonstrate that he was far ahead of the national curve, an innovative and often courageous political leader who broke ground that would take other, more well-known politicians years to follow.

    Baldacci and his team lead the nation with health care reform, passing Dirigo Health, a program that became a model for the Affordable Care Act. He passed the law, which mixed expansion of public health care with private subsidies and a commitment to better health, with a two-thirds majority.

    While the law became controversial later, it started out with strong, negotiated support from Republicans, Democrats and independents. The law made Maine a national leader in reducing the number of uninsured and literally saved lives.

    In 2009, Baldacci became the first governor in the country to sign a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, and then he became a champion of the fight to defend it against a people’s veto.

    He conserved more than a million acres in the state preserving access for generations to come and completed the deal that brought Katahdin Lake into Baxter State Park, completing Gov. Percival Baxter’s vision.

    He raised the minimum wage multiple times and campaigned for the most recent citizen’s initiative to keep the work alive in a gridlocked Legislature.

    Baldacci and his chief of staff, Jane Lincoln, helped to shatter glass ceilings throughout state government by appointing smart, powerful and tenacious women to the biggest leadership positions in the executive branch, including naming the first female commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

    In Congress, he was brave enough, and forward looking enough, to vote against the Iraq War. It seems like common sense in hindsight, but at the time, almost everyone – Democrat and Republican alike – was beating the drums of war. He never bought the Bush administration’s rationale.

    He fought to clean up toxic waste sites and helped negotiate the groundbreaking Regional Green House Gas Initiative to reduce pollution and bring new energy efficiency dollars into the state.

    He went to Cuba and met with Fidel Castro. He knew it would create a political firestorm, but because Maine farmers convinced him it would make a huge difference for their farms and business, he went. He took the heat.

    And when the global economy collapsed and the fate of the US economy was on the line, the White House and governors from all over the country turned to Baldacci to help close the deal on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

    With trust in DC at a low, Baldacci was able to help bridge the gap between the two sides because they all trusted him. He was neither looking for credit or headlines. He was simply trying to do what he thought was best for Maine and the country.

    From land conservation and the environment to civil rights to economic justice to global financial collapse to war and the H1N1 flu epidemic, Baldacci guided our state at a time of great distress and consequence. He broke new ground – over and over and over again.

    And he always lived up to the question his father asked him early on in his political career: “What have you done for the people today?”

    Very few can answer that question the way Baldacci can.

  • Linn not to be on Maine ballot decides Secretary of State Dunlap

     

     

    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, upon reviewing new evidence regarding the candidate petitions of U.S. Senate candidate Max Patrick Linn, has found that Linn has not met the threshold to be eligible for the June 12, 2018 Primary Election ballot.

    Earlier today, Secretary Dunlap re-opened the hearing on a challenge to Linn’s candidate petitions, per order of the Kennebec County Superior Court, to consider new evidence presented by the challenger, David Boyer and the Eric Brakey for Senate campaign, as well as any relevant evidence presented by the candidate.

    After hearing all the evidence presented at the first hearing on Thursday, March 29, as well as the second hearing on Tuesday, April 24, Secretary Dunlap has invalidated 258 of Linn’s original total of 2,248 petition signatures that were initially counted as valid, leaving the candidate with a total of 1,990 valid signatures, which is 10 fewer than the minimum required to qualify for the primary election ballot.

    Due to the ballot printing schedule, the deadline for a candidate to have his or her name removed from the ballot was April 3. Thus, Linn’s name will appear on the ballot, but voters will be provided with notice at the polls informing them that he is no longer a candidate.

    This decision modifies Secretary Dunlap’s previous decision of April 5, when Dunlap found the challenger had presented sufficient evidence to invalidate the signatures of 230 voters but concluded that the petition and consent form still met the legal requirements to allow Linn to appear on the ballot. The Brakey campaign appealed that decision to the Kennebec County Superior Court and subsequently filed a motion to take additional evidence relevant to the challenge. On Friday, April 20, Justice William R. Stokes granted the challenger’s motion and ordered Secretary Dunlap to reopen the challenge hearing to consider new evidence. 

    Justice Stokes is expected to hear oral argument on Wednesday, April 25 at 11 a.m. regarding Secretary Dunlap’s decision.

  • Maine Secretary Dunlap schedules hearing to consider new evidence in Linn petition challenge

    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap will revisit the challenge to U.S. Senate candidate Max Patrick Linn’s candidate petitions, per order of the Kennebec County Superior Court, re-opening the hearing to consider new evidence presented by the challenger as well as any relevant evidence presented by the candidate.

    The challenge hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 24 in Room 300 of the Cross State Office Building, Augusta.

    The original challenge to Linn’s petitions was filed on behalf of David Boyer and the Eric Brakey for Senate campaign Thursday, March 22, alleging that Linn should be disqualified from appearing on the June 12, 2018 Primary Election ballot.

    Secretary Dunlap presided over the challenge hearing on Thursday, March 29, 2018 in Augusta. In his decision of April 5, Dunlap found the challenger had presented sufficient evidence to invalidate the signatures of 230 voters, but concluded that the petition and consent form still met the legal requirements to allow Linn to appear on the ballot.

    The Brakey campaign appealed the decision to the Kennebec County Superior Court and subsequently filed a motion to take additional evidence relevant to the challenge. On Friday, April 20, Justice William R. Stokes granted the challenger’s motion and ordered Secretary Dunlap to reopen the challenge hearing to consider new evidence. 

    Secretary Dunlap will issue an updated decision, which will be reported to the Court by Wednesday, April 25, along with any additions to the agency record. Justice Stokes is expected to hear oral argument on Wednesday at 11 a.m. and thereafter to issue a decision on the appeal.  

  • Veterans mental health pilot program begins in Maine

    Program created by Rep. Golden’s bill to increase services for veterans   

     By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services launched a new pilot program to provide mental health care and case management services to Maine veterans on Monday.  The program was created as part of a bill sponsored by House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston. 

    “I am very glad this bill is already helping Maine’s veterans get the care they need,” Golden said. “When veterans needing care fall through the cracks of the VA system, states like ours need to step up and make sure that no one gets left behind.” 

    The program will be administered by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services. Care coordination and case management will be facilitated by Easter Seals Maine and Health Affiliates Maine.  

    The pilot program will be open to all veterans, free of charge, no matter their discharge or length of service. The term “veteran” includes:

    1.  Any person who has served in the United States Armed Forces (Active Duty, National Guard and Reserves) who needs mental health treatment or mental health navigation.
    2.  Any service member currently serving in the Armed Forces.

    The law, L.D. 1231, “An Act Regarding Mental Health Care for Maine Veterans”, was passed by the Legislature last summer. In addition to setting up this pilot program to provide needed services, this law will gather data on mental health admissions to determine if the person seeking help is a veteran and whether they qualify for veteran’s services.

    There is currently no inpatient mental health care in Maine specifically for veterans. Those requiring care through the VA are sent out of state for treatment.

    "It's unacceptable that we don't have long-term inpatient mental health care options for veterans in Maine," said Golden. "We need to push the VA to fix this so that our veterans don't have to go out of state for the care they need."

    Golden is a Marine Corps veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where he served as an Infantry Assaultman. 

    “I am so pleased that the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services and the Department of Health and Human Services have moved so quickly to launch this program,” said Golden. “I’m confident the services they provide under this project will make a big difference for a lot of veterans, and hopefully move the federal government to do more for Maine veterans.” 

    For more information, contact Easter Seals Maine at 207-828-0754, Health Affiliates Maine at 333-3278, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services at 287-3707 or the Maine Bureau of Veterans’ Services at 430-6035.  

    Golden is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents part of the city of Lewiston. He's also running for Congress in Maine's 2nd District.

  • Congresswoman Chellie Pingree speaks out against federal farm bill

     

    I’ve always been optimistic about the farm bill. I felt very fortunate to work on the last farm bill with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, supporting programs that I believe make a difference. As legislation goes, the farm bill has a track record of breaking down party lines and cultivating collaboration.

    But now, the farm bill has become the latest partisan battle, following in the steps of healthcare and tax reform. The 641-page farm bill draft was written by Republicans behind closed doors, and they’re hoping it passes quickly before anyone even has time to read it. The draft was released last Thursday and will be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee today, less than a week later.

    If the clandestine drafting process wasn’t disappointing enough, the content of the farm bill draft leaves much to be desired. The meat and potatoes of the bill—roughly 80 percent of the funding—is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food benefits to low-income individuals and families. The draft seeks to “fix” SNAP, a program that is not broken, by mandating new work requirements for its recipients. All able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 59 would be required to work or be enrolled in a job-training program for at least 20 hours a week beginning in 2021, increasing to 25 hours per week in 2026.

    But studies show that the SNAP recipients who can work do in fact work. Work requirements will do nothing but snatch away a lifeline from those who don’t know where their next meal will come from. Rather than targeting welfare programs like SNAP, our communities would be far better off if we invested in livable wages.

    Beyond the SNAP changes, it’s disheartening to see mandatory funding completely stripped from important local and regional food programs: Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Energy for America Program, the list goes on. That means those programs will be at the mercy of the volatile annual appropriations process and could be eliminated altogether. The Organic Certification Cost Share Program, which helps farmers afford organic certification expenses, would not be reauthorized at all. Though they’re the smallest of the small funding-wise, these programs provide vital support to the local food economy and they’ve been game-changers to the farmers they’ve helped.

    The bill’s proposed cuts to conservation programs would also be detrimental to farmers. Funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s major working lands conservation programs would be reduced by about $5 billion over 10 years. At a time when farmers are dealing with unpredictable weather patterns that exacerbate the inherent risk of farming, this is foolish and short-sighted. What’s more, net farm income has dropped about 50 percent in the last four years. We should be moving programs that support sustainable agriculture forward, not backward, especially as farmers grapple with this struggling farm economy.

    There are a few glimmers of hope in the farm bill draft. There’s an increase in funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program, which allows SNAP recipients to double their benefits when buying fruits and vegetables. A new Food Waste and Recovery Liaison position would be established at the USDA. The National Organic Program’s authority would be expanded to address the growing concern about fraudulent import. And organic research would receive more, although not sufficient, funding. These are all provisions I’ve worked hard to drum up support for over the last year.

    But those provisions don’t change the fact that the changes to SNAP will result in people losing food assistance benefits, or the fact that programs supporting sustainable agriculture could disappear if this draft passes.

    This farm bill has a long road ahead. Even if the current draft makes it out of the House Agriculture Committee this week, its fate on the House floor is uncertain. It needs 218 votes to pass the House floor and, even then, the Senate has already pledged to work on a bipartisan bill that will be seemingly less controversial.

    My hope is that this draft doesn’t see the light of day, and that we focus instead on extending existing programs before the current farm bill expires on September 30 so that there is no lapse in funding.

    Our communities deserve a better farm bill—one that helps to alleviate hunger, promotes growing agricultural markets, and encourages environmental stewardship.

  • Maine Bill to Help LIFT Families out of Poverty Becomes Law

    By Ramona du Houx

     “This bill removes some of the barriers I’ve faced making life work as I go back to school, juggle family obligations and chart my path for a new career in a changing economy,” said Flavia Oliveira, a Waterville mother of four who testified in support of the bill. “It will help me and many like me who just want a chance to succeed.” 

    LD 1774, An Act to Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families for Tomorrow (LIFT), became law on April 14, 2018 without the governor’s signature.

    “Families need a fair shot to get ahead in this economy, and we know that education and training are the surest ways to get that,” said Joby Thoyalil, policy analyst for Maine Equal Justice Partners. “We also know that when low income parents go back to school, they often face significant barriers to completing their education — this bill will help knock down those barriers.”

    LIFT uses evidence-based and cost-effective strategies to provide support for parents living in poverty so that they can acquire the skills and tools they need to be successful.

    Both the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine Senate enacted the bill ‘under the hammer’ early this month with broad bi-partisan support.

    “This legislation is squarely aimed at ensuring that every Mainer can provide for their families. When people can make ends meet, it helps families while growing the economy. At the same time, it will increase the numbers of higher skilled workers badly needed by Maine’s employers and our economy," said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, sponser of the bill.

    The new law will utilize available federal funds to create the Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment (HOPE) program, increasing access to programs that provide industry-recognized credentials and degrees to eligible parents. 

    LIFT will: 

    • Leverage federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds already available to Maine to help low-wage parents successfully achieve associate degrees or industry-recognized post-secondary credentials leading to jobs in any field that has at least an average job outlook as determined by the Department of Labor;
    • Help low-wage parents successfully achieve bachelor’s degrees leading to jobs in the health care, technology or engineering fields;
    • Guarantee that all HOPE participants will have access to wrap-around support services, such as child care and transportation, to help them succeed in their education programs; and
    • Provide increased capacity for educational institutions to provide navigators that will work one-on-one with program participants helping them to overcome obstacles that threaten their educational goals.

    The final version of the bill was a successful bipartisan compromise that garnered strong support from both Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of the Legislature. Addressing child poverty should be everyone’s goal and this new law is an example of what can be accomplished when politics are put aside, and lawmakers work collectively toward that goal. 

    Maine Equal Justice Partners is a civil legal aid organization that represents Maine people with low income in areas of economic security, including access to health care.