Speaker Gideon Introduces Legislation to
Strengthen Education and Training Programs

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.

Good afternoon, I’m Sara Gideon, the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.

Building that path to prosperity for all Maine families is why I ran for office. Last session, I presented my original LIFT bill to face the challenges facing our state. It was an innovative approach to solving child poverty in Maine. I personally believed that it was imperative that we invested immediately in Maine’s children who were experiencing poverty.

Not only because they are the future of our communities and our workforce, but quite simply, because each one of them, as a young human being who is dependent on the adults around them, is worth it.

The bill was incorporated into the budget, and it has already demonstrated real results. Because of this law at least 2,600 Maine children were indeed lifted out of deep poverty.

But we know the work is far from over. Since 2011, the rate of children living in deep poverty decreased nationally by 4.2 percent, while it increased in Maine by 13.6 percent. It will take more than one piece of legislation to address this issue.

This week I presented An Act to Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families for Tomorrow, a companion to my previous LIFT bill. Because we all know that big problems take long-range solutions.

This legislation picks up where the last bill left off by establishing two programs intended to strengthen the financial stability of low-income families with children. We do this in a simple and straightforward way – through increased access to education and training services.

LIFT 2.0 seeks to solve two problems at once:

First: Maine is heading in the wrong direction when it comes to the number of children experiencing poverty. At its core, LIFT 2.0 seeks to turn this negative Maine trend around.

Second: Maine is facing a major challenge in the form of a workforce gap. This exists no matter where you go in the state, no matter what business you talk to, and it’s only growing worse.

LIFT will help rebuild Maine’s shrinking workforce. Education and job training professionals agree that to help solve this we must provide pathways to education for low-wage workers, while providing them with the supports like child care and transportation. This is exactly the kind of support that this legislation provides.

This week in the Health and Human Services Committee, I heard such powerful testimony from supporters of this bill. For hours, I listened to the parents who would be impacted by this legislation.

Moriah Geer, who has successfully used the Parents As Scholars program that this bill would expand, said, “ 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.”

But I also heard equally compelling testimony from the Chamber of Commerce, from Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and Educate Maine, about how legislation like LIFT can help fill a critical skills gap and address our workforce issues.

When people can make ends meet, it helps families while growing the economy. All of the measures in my LIFT bill are squarely aimed at ensuring that every Mainer can provide for their families. I know that is a goal we all share.

I’m Speaker Sara Gideon. Thank you for listening.