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UWGP Legislative Update, 3/08/19

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
MARCH 8, 2019

To get the Legislative Update delivered to your inbox every other week, email Ronald Jarrett, United Way of Greater Portland’s Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, at advocacy@unitedwaygp.org.

Support Women and Children with LD 421 on
International Women’s Day

The federal Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) helps provide healthcare and nutrition for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five. Young children accessing healthy food through WIC experience improved dietary outcomes, including increased average intakes of iron, vitamin C, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, and increased overall nutrient density. This helps with important early development. As of October 2018, 14,233 Maine infants, toddlers, and Kindergarteners receive WIC.

LD 421 seeks to ensure that the nearly 4,000 Maine mothers currently participating in WIC have an easier time securing fresh fruits and vegetables for their young children at farmers’ markets.  As one parent described, “…few things are more frustrating than getting to the Farmers’ Market and the one WIC Farmer is out of produce. Even though there are other farmers there with produce, you can’t use your WIC coupon with them.” Passage of LD 421 is the first step in fixing this problem; it would make it easier for all farmers to participate. 

The passage of LD 421, and the federal government’s approval of the subsequent waiver proposal, will ensure that struggling parents are not blocked from using their WIC coupons to purchase fresh produce from all available farmers because the farmers’ market itself will process the WIC transaction directly, much like how SNAP payments are currently handled. Caitlin Jordan, manager of both the South Portland and Scarborough Farmers’ Markets, stated in testimony in support of this bill that, “…the passing of this bill is a great step to allow WIC to be treated like SNAP.”

At the public hearing held February 25, 2019, United Way of Greater Portland, along with bill sponsor Rep. Terry of Gorham, spoke in support of this bill. Nancy Beardsley, Interim Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, submitted testimony in support of the bill. If you’d like to make your support of this important bill known, please contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org. And thank you for any of those who responded to our action alert and took action!

Ongoing Support + Expansion for School-Based Health Centers
LD 392 + LD 836

School-based health centers provide resources that aid in the prevention of and response to Adverse Childhood Experiences (or “ACEs”, defined as experiences that can include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, and household violence), and ensure youth receive needed mental health services. LD 392 provides ongoing funding ($600,000) for the current 15 school-based health centers across the state. The funding comes from the Fund for a Healthy Maine. During the 2016-2017 school year, the six school-based health center locations in Greater Portland (Reiche Community School, Riverton School, West School, Casco Bay High School, Deering High School, King Middle School, and Portland High School) provided services through over 2,588 student visits.

At the public hearing on Monday, February 25, 2019, Barbara Reinertsen, Executive Director of United Way of Mid-Coast Maine, stated, “It’s an alarming fact that 27% of Maine high school students surveyed reported feeling sad or helpless every day for two weeks during the past school year. 15% had seriously considered attempting suicide. Among middle school students, 16% had considered suicide. These numbers have climbed sharply and demand our attention and action. Mental health issues seriously threaten our Maine students—their ability to learn, their ability to get through the day with any hope for the future, even their very lives.”

“It’s an alarming fact that 27% of Maine high school students surveyed reported feeling sad or helpless every day for two weeks during the past school year. 15% had seriously considered attempting suicide. Among middle school students, 16% had considered suicide. These numbers have climbed sharply and demand our attention and action. Mental health issues seriously threaten our Maine students—their ability to learn, their ability to get through the day with any hope for the future, even their very lives.”- Barbara Reinertsen, Executive Director of United Way of Mid Coast Maine

LD 836 provides an additional 15 school-based health centers with ongoing funding ($600,000); essentially doubling the current number of centers with a focus on rural districts. When asked why he proposed increasing the number of school based health centers, Rep. Handy of Lewiston stated in his testimony that, “…we have found something that has had a profound impact on the lives of children and their families, and we want to share that.”

United Way of Greater Portland is supporting these bills because they align with Thrive2027 and Goal 3, helping to reduce preventable premature deaths. To accomplish Goal 3, we are focusing on mental health, substance use prevention and treatment, and suicide prevention. ACEs identification, intervention and prevention has a direct impact on an individual’s quality and length of life.  

If you’d like to make your support of these important bills known, please contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org

Take ACTION Now!
Action Alert – LD 214

Support LD 214 to broaden access to legal aid and ensure people have the help they need to secure food, shelter, work, and medicine.

Contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org to register your support today!

UWGP Legislative Watch List

United Way of Greater Portland has embraced Thrive2027, our community’s 10-year effort to achieve measurable progress in the areas of education, financial stability, and health. UWGP is playing its part to ensure the success of Thrive2027 by supporting public policies like those included in the following Legislative Watch List: 

 Goal 1: Give Kids a Strong Start  

  • LD 468, “An Act To Require That the State Fund on an Ongoing Basis a Minimum of 50 Percent of the Costs Associated with Public Preschool Programs” (Introduced by Rep. Farnsworth)
    This bill is not yet scheduled for a public hearing but, the budget hearing on education issues, including public pre-K, is being held on Monday, March 11, 2019, 10:00 AM, State House Room 228.

 Goal 2: Empower Neighbors to Thrive – Not Just Survive

  • LD 214 “An Act to Increase Funding for Civil Legal Services” (Introduced by Rep. Cardone) 
    A public hearing was held Thursday, February 28, 2019.
  • LD 421, “Resolve to Amend the State Plan Regarding the Processing of Vouchers under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children by Farmers’ Markets” (Introduced by Rep. Terry)
    A public hearing was held on Monday, February 25, 2019.
  • LD 982 “Resolve to Expand the Use of the Women, Infants and Children Special Supplemental Food Program at Farmers’ Markets” (Introduced by Rep. Daughtry)
  • LD 104, “An Act to Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit in Maine” (Introduced by Sen. Vitelli)
    This bill is not yet scheduled for a public hearing but, the budget hearing that addresses tax issues, such as the earned income tax credit, is being held on March 20, 2019, 10:00 AM, State House Room 228.

Goal 3:  Help Us All Live Longer, Better

  • LD 227, “An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Public Health Infrastructure” (Introduced by Rep. Perry)
  • LD 266, “An Act to Eliminate the 2-year Limit on MaineCare Coverage for Approved Drugs for Opioid Use Disorder” (Introduced by Sen. L. Sanborn)
    The language and intent of this bill could find its way into the biennial budget.
  • LD 447 “An Act Regarding the Substance Use Disorder Continuum of Care” (Introduced by Sen. Gratwick)
  • LD 392 “An Act to Fund Maine’s School-based Health Centers” (Introduced by Rep. Handy)
    A public hearing was held on Monday, February 25, 2019.
  • LD 836 “An Act to Expand Maine’s School-based Health Centers” (Introduced by Rep. Handy)
    A public hearing was held on Monday, February 25, 2019.

Thank you for all you do to build a stronger community.

If you would like to know how you can be an Advocate, please contact us at advocacy@unitedwaygp.org