Even before COVID-19, too many working Mainers have found themselves on the brink, forced to make impossible decisions in order to care for the ones they love the most.

This pandemic has put into stark relief how crucial it is for families to be able to take time off to care for themselves or their loved ones should they fall sick or need extra care. But Maine’s current family medical leave policy is unpaid, which means many families are forced to choose between their family or their job.

Sign here if you agree: Maine needs Paid Family & Medical Leave.

Aranka and her son Colby are one of those families.

When Colby was born, he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects development. “By the time he was four years old, I had gone through 300 or so meetings between medical providers, special service providers, and educational providers,” said Aranka.

In order to take care of her son, Aranka could not continue working.

“The ability to support myself independently was over,” said Aranka. “The supports and systems are not in place to enable me to continue working and have the needs of my son met.”

The current lack of a statewide Paid Family & Medical Leave policy means working Mainers are forced to take unpaid leave, come to work when they or their family are ill, or, in Aranka’s case, give up their jobs in order to care for their loved ones.

“If we don’t have the support we need to care for our children with disabilities, then we are relegated to social services when most of us want to work,” said Aranka.

Right now, our current policy that’s in place is not enough. Families like Aranka and Colby shouldn’t be struggling to stay afloat, forced to give up work because they need time off for care.

It’s time to ensure that Maine’s working families can take time off to care for themselves or their loved ones, without risking their paycheck.

Sign here to tell our legislators: it’s time to pass Paid Family & Medical Leave.

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Working families all over our state are struggling with the rising costs of healthcare. Too many Mainers have to choose between paying rent, buying groceries, or seeking the care they need to remain healthy.

Often, the first form of care that people are forced to sacrifice is their prescription medication. Over 200,000 Mainers have gone without prescribed medication due to the cost at some point. Even with a good insurance plan, out-of-pocket costs for medication can add up, making it harder for many to afford the medication they need to stay healthy.

During this pandemic, with unemployment rates rising, Big Pharma keeps hiking up their prices. This is not only unacceptable, but dangerous. With many Mainers still looking for work, more and more people will have to make the impossible choice of rationing medication or going without it entirely.

There are a lot of good solutions to take on the greed of Big Pharma, including:

  • Putting a cap on the price of life-saving drugs

  • Setting up international reference rates for drugs, so that prices here are the same as across the border in Canada

  • Preventing price gouging of generic medication

  • Increasing oversight and accountability of drug companies

No one should have to choose between putting food on the table or affording their prescribed medication.

Add your name to our petition to send a message to the Legislature: Every Mainer should have access to healthcare.

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As Governor Mills and our State Legislature get to work together on our state’s budget to chart a path toward our recovery, it’s crucial that they prioritize Maine’s working families.

Gov. Mills has worked hard to keep our state afloat, and when it comes to the next budget, more work needs to be done to ensure we come out of this crisis stronger than we came into it. Click here to read Douglas Rooks’ column on Gov. Mills’ budget.

While the wealthiest among us continue to do well throughout the pandemic, many Mainers aren’t so lucky.

“[T]hose at the bottom — “essential” workers in front-line jobs — have borne the brunt of the virus, dying at much higher rates, and enduring most of the layoffs and wrenching displacements,” said Douglas Rooks in his most recent column. Read the full column here.

In order to protect working Mainers and their families, we need to ensure tax fairness. Former Governor Paul LePage drove income tax rates down, forcing working families to bear a higher proportional tax burden than the wealthiest Mainers. Adjusting that tax rate could be key in increasing our revenue without hurting our economy or working families.

“We may regret doing nothing about Maine’s widening economic disparities,” said Rooks. “Even small rate increases would allow us to cut regressive sales taxes — increased under LePage to make up for lost income tax revenue.Read more.

Beyond the current tax rate, we know that the instinct during an economic crisis is to cut spending across the board. This will only hurt Mainers in the long-term. Instead, we should be increasing our funding to crucial essential services, like education, and investing in job creation.

Currently, young people in Maine are leaving en masse, and not enough are coming in to counteract it. By investing in our higher education system and in job creation, we can attract new talent to the state, and keep more of our young people here.

“Public universities can be engines of economic growth, and Maine has seen promising results from research in forest products and offshore wind generation, but new industries won’t come to fruition — and attract private funding — unless the state makes greater investments,” said Rooks. Read more.

As Gov. Mills and the State Legislature hash out this budget, it’s important that they play the long game, by promoting fair tax rates, and investing in our working families and their future.

If you agree that Maine's budget should ensure that the wealthiest Mainers pay their fair share in taxes, and focus on investing in our future, share this article on Facebook and Twitter.

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© 2019 Mainers for Working Famililes