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In Maine, our hard working healthcare workers play a critical role in ensuring that our families and communities remain healthy and safe. During the toughest periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of these Mainers stepped up to curb the spread of the virus.

The bulk of these health care practitioners are registered nurses (RNs) and nursing assistants, who make up roughly half of the healthcare occupation in Maine hospitals. Despite their essential role in the healthcare sector, many are often forced to go toe-to-toe with hospital executives in order to prove their worth.

Reports indicate that in recent years, Maine hospitals have paid their chief executives more than the national average. Now, lawmakers seek to address this disparity in compensation.

Senator Tipping of Penobscot recently introduced LD 1321: An Act to Address Income Disparity in Health Care by Limiting the Compensation of Hospital Executives. The bill would essentially limit the total annual compensation for an executive at a hospital to no more than five times the median compensation of a full-time registered professional nurse at that hospital.

Proponents of the bill say that funds from excess compensation to chief executives are needed elsewhere to improve conditions for nurses and other hospital staff.

All working people deserve fair compensation and working conditions, including those who work everyday to keep Mainers healthy. LD 1321 would lessen the income gap in Maine hospitals and strengthen the healthcare sector in the process. Mainers For Working Families looks forward to seeing the passage of this bill.

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Mainers For Working Families announced that over 130 healthcare professionals from across the state have signed on to a letter calling on the Maine Legislature to pass a statewide Paid Family & Medical Leave (PFML) program. In Bangor, and Portland, doctors, legislators, and activists came together to urge the Legislature to pass this critical policy.

“As health professionals, we swore an oath to take care of our patients: aiding them when they’re sick, alleviating pain where we can, and promoting good health. The current system of unpaid leave creates undue stress and burden on patients seeking care as well as their loved ones who often act as caretakers,” the letter states. “This is why we support the creation of a Paid Family and Medical Leave program in Maine.”

The Paid Family Leave Commission issued its final report to the Labor and Housing Committee last month, unanimously recommending a PFML policy that would allow most Maine workers to take up to 16 weeks of paid leave each year to care for themselves or a family member.

“Too often, our patients are forced to delay or deny themselves care because they can’t afford to take the time off. When each paycheck means the difference between having a full plate of food or not, or heating their home or not, oftentimes their health is forced to the back burner,” said Dr. Noah Nesin, a family physician who’s worked in Maine for 36 years.

“Sixty percent of Mainers live in rural communities where it takes one hour to be able to access preventative care; it’s hours if you’re looking for hospital-based care,” said Sen. Mattie Daughtry. “I can’t think of a group that’s better aware of what a big deal Paid Family & Medical Leave would be for the state of Maine than our doctors, physicians, and all our healthcare practitioners. They see every single day what it means when people delay their health care… and see those ramifications of putting off care.” Watch Sen. Mattie discuss this critical policy!

“As a doctor, I know how vital it is for people to have protections to care for themselves or their family members,” said Dr. Brendan Prast, family physician and Chair of Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare. “It does not matter what your health is like – we will all get sick, and we will all need care. It is extraordinarily wrong to force people to choose between work or the health of themselves, or their families.”

“The burden of unpaid care isn’t just financial,” said Destie Hohman Sprague, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby. “For as long as people don’t have access to [Paid Family & Medical Leave], we’re saying it’s okay for families to struggle with their finances, to struggle with mental health, to not have the time to provide the care that their families need and deserve.”

“Nearly seventy percent of our patients are struggling financially,” said Sean Whiting, Director of Data and Operations at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “We hear about their struggles to take care of their families and their health every day. Beyond all else, Paid Family & Medical Leave is an equity issue. Given the reality… that women are more likely to leave the workforce than men due to essential caregiving responsibilities, Paid Family & Medical Leave in Maine is an incredibly important goal in the fight for gender and racial equity in our state.”

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In 2020, the federal government expanded the child tax credit to help ease the burden on families during the pandemic. While voting to extend it for a couple of years, Congress did not renew this for the 2023 tax year.

With rising inflation and many families struggling to make ends meet, it’s crucial that our state government step in to help where it can. A new bill introduced to the Legislature will do just that.

LD 1544, An Act to Improve Economic Security for Maine Children by Establishing the Maine Dependent Tax Credit, would create a new, statewide child tax credit to replace the current tax exemption.

This credit would:

  • Be available for a taxpayer with a dependant who has lived with them for at least 6 months of the tax year, or who was born during the tax year, and for whom the taxpayer has provided more than 50 percent of that dependent's financial support during the tax year;

  • Be fully refundable (unlike the federal tax credit) and may not be counted as income, an asset, or a resource for purposes of state or municipal benefits;

  • Be adjusted each year for inflation, with the 2023 credit resting at $350 for each dependent.

This bill is an important step forward in ensuring that Maine’s taxpayers have the support they need to help raise and feed their families. We encourage the Legislature to pass this bill!

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