LD 1774 – An Act To Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families Tomorrow (LIFT)

AUGUSTA – Speaker of the House Sara Gideon (D-Freeport) on Wednesday introduced LD 1774, a continuation of her work from the previous session addressing the issues of poverty in our state by ensuring that every Mainer has the opportunity to get a good-paying job. An Act To Reduce Child Poverty by  Leveraging Investments in Families Tomorrow (LIFT) establishes two programs intended to strengthen the financial stability of low-income families with children through increased access to education and training service.

“It’s not enough to simply build one step out of poverty. Instead, we have to focus on the ultimate goal of making sure that families can gain independence. That they can sustain their escape from poverty. That they can build their own path to prosperity,” said Gideon. “We do this in a simple and straightforward way – through increased access to education and training services.”

According to multiple recent reports, including the latest from the Maine Development Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce, Maine is facing a workforce shortage that  will only become more severe in the years ahead. This bill is another strategy to help employers get the employees they need and get Mainers into good paying jobs by leveraging available federal funds. The bill has a bipartisan sponsor list.

“My road has been a difficult one, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My children are now 9 and 11 and I have been able to show them what hard work and perseverance is and how it can pay off,” said Moriah Geer of Orono, a former Parents as Scholars participant who spoke in support of the bill. “They don’t talk about if they go to college someday, they say ‘when I grow up and go to college.’”

Last session’s legislation was able to address some of the immediate needs of people living in deep poverty and stabilize families by ensuring basics like housing and heat. As a result of these initiatives, approximately 2600 Maine families were lifted out of deep poverty. This session’s LIFT bill expands opportunities for Mainers to get training, skills and ultimately the actual good jobs that pay a decent wage.

“Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems is one of Maine’s largest healthcare employers and we are challenged on a daily basis with a critical shortage of essential healthcare workers,” said Lisa Harvey-McPherson from EMHS. “This bill creates the opportunity for Maine’s nursing education programs to partner with the Department of Health and Human Services facilitate successful program completion. Upon licensure, these individuals are on a pathway into a secure profession, economic stability and a variety of employment.”

“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 Gideon. “All of these measures are squarely aimed at ensuring that every Mainer can provide for their families. I know that is a goal we all share.”

POLICY INITIATIVES

Parents as Scholars Working Families Program

The first is a companion to the current Parents as Scholars program.  This program would be available to non-cash assistance families with minor children with incomes at or below 185% of the federal poverty level pursuing a post-secondary degree or credential that has at least an average job outlook as identified by the Department of Labor.

Food Supplement Employment and Training Program

The second initiative is a Food Supplement Employment and Training Program that would create partnership agreements between the Department of Health and Human Services and third party educational institutions or community based organizations that meet certain standards to provide education, training and support services to eligible adult learners.
A public hearing on LD 1774  was held February 14 and a work session will be scheduled in the coming weeks before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. Full testimony from today’s public hearing will be found here.