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2020 Legislative Warm-Up

2020 LEGISLATIVE WARM-UP
December 27, 2019

2020 Welcome Warm-Up

Greetings Community Advocate,

United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP) is pleased to present the 2020 bi-weekly Legislative Update. To kick start advocacy communications this update serves to get us warmed up for the legislative session ahead with two Thrive2027 bills to watch. The Thrive2027 policy agenda complements UWGP’s policy priorities that will be presented in January.

In the months ahead, we will be asking for your support in advocating for these and other pieces of aligned legislation. Additionally, we hope to keep you informed about policy and advocacy developments that are of interest to UWGP, the Thrive2027 community and you. If you are not currently subscribed and want to get the Legislative Update delivered to your inbox every other week, please subscribe below, or to connect with our Director of Public Policy and Advocacy now, please contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org.

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To lend your support and help further policies and legislation that will further the goals of Thrive2027 and a thriving community, make your year-end gift today. 

Thrive2027 Priorities

On Tuesday, December 17, 2019, the Thrive Council, in accordance with the Thrive2027 Policy Framework, voted in favor of supporting two state legislative bills during the upcoming legislative session in Augusta. The following bills were identified, analyzed, and deliberated from an initial list of 400 bills held over from the last legislative session, another 400 bills added before cloture and reviewed by the Legislative Council, and another 77 bills on appeal with the Legislative Council.

L.D. 1645
An Act To Create Affordable Workforce and Senior Housing and Preserve Affordable Rural Housing
Sponsored by Representative Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford (D)

Purpose: To address Maine’s shortage of safe, affordable housing by creating a state affordable housing tax credit—the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit program—incentivizing investment in the creation of new affordable housing and the preservation of existing at-risk units. This bill would double the current rate of affordable housing production in Maine, increasing the amount of available affordable housing units to create more opportunities for struggling families to secure a home.

Support Details: According to MaineHousing, the median home price in Cumberland County is $303,000. The income needed to afford this median home price is $91,909. However, the median income of a Cumberland County resident is just $70,437. Therefore, 63.3% of households are unable to afford a median-priced home.

Research shows that in 2017, 30% of Cumberland County residents paid more than 30% of their income on housing. Also, 35% of Cumberland County seniors were paying more than 30% of their income on housing.

In his testimony last May in support of LD 1645, Greg Payne of Maine Affordable Housing Coalition mentioned that “…the annual rate of production of new affordable housing units is only about 250 statewide. The aggregate waiting list for affordable housing managed by members of the state’s largest apartment association has risen to more than 32,000 households; over 18,100 Maine households are on waiting lists for federal rental assistance, often for 5-10 or more years; and over 4,000 households applied for an affordable home at the state’s largest non-profit housing agency in 2018, but only 373 received help. More than 35,000 renter households, spread throughout all areas of Maine, are severely rent-burdened, paying more than half of their income for rent and utilities.”

Rep. Fecteau, in his testimony supporting LD 1645, described the program as follows: MaineHousing would administer, through a process like its current allocation of federal housing tax credits, a tax credit program that would create 1,000 new affordable homes over four years. There is currently an amendment that would change the four years to eight years. That is still 50% more than the current rate of production. These new units will have minimum 45-year affordability covenants.

It is estimated that the tax credits would cost $10M/year. 30% of the credit would be allocated to new housing units targeted for seniors and 20% is targeted for rural areas. The credit is subject to reporting requirements and a process for tax expenditure review by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.

This bill was carried over from the previous legislative session.

How It Furthers Thrive2027:

  • Given the focus on securing affordable housing, this bill has the potential to impact all three Thrive2027 goals.
  • Increasing the amount of available affordable creates more opportunities for struggling families to secure a home. Having a stable home is one aspect of mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and impacts the Goal 1 Strategy 1.5: Be responsive to and reduce the impact of toxic stress on children, families and communities.
  • Increasing the opportunities to secure affordable housing for families and seniors is an important aspect of this bill that connects with the following Goal 2 Strategies: 2.22 – Ensure individuals and families have safe shelter, temporary, supportive, and permanent affordable housing near employment hubs and 2.23 – Increase senior housing opportunities and supports to keep seniors in their homes.
  • This bill impacts Goal 3 via Strategy 3.8: Strengthen economic supports systems during times of financial stress and stabilize housing.
  • This bill would double the current rate of affordable housing production in Maine.

L.D. 1760
An Act To Create Affordable Workforce and Senior Housing and Preserve Affordable Rural Housing
Sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson (D)

Purpose: To launch up to 10 First 4 ME pilot sites under Maine DHHS that would serve at-risk children under 6 years of age who have not entered kindergarten and the children’s parents. The bill funds projects that integrate comprehensive resources and services with traditional center-based and family childcare settings. The bill creates the First 4 ME Early Care and Education program that provides pilot communities with family supports including home visiting services, increases child care providers’ knowledge, increases parent engagement and communication, and provides children and families with wrap-around supports such as nutrition, mental health services, and connections to other community services as needed.

The pilot program involves multiple stakeholders, providers, and state government resources and serves an under-resourced population. The bill directs the department to track progress on the pilot programs toward their goals for early childhood education and family supports. Statewide coalitions including Right from the Start and United Ways of Maine support this bill.

Support Details: The KIDS Count Data Center reported that in 2017, 57% of Maine’s three and four-year-olds were not in school.

According to the Foundation for Child Development, “…three and four-year-olds who attend preschool gain between half a year to a full year of additional learning of language, literacy, and math, which build cognitive and achievement outcomes for the student. Included in this growth is the social-emotional development of a child that occurs when attending preschool, including reducing children’s behavioral aggression and increasing attentiveness in the classroom …”

In addition, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that, “…Children who get a strong start on their education, including social-emotional learning, and are reading on grade level by 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to graduate from high school….”

Concerns about youth mental health have been heightened in the last 10 years due to the rising number of Maine youth who report signs of depression and anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. Recently, the Maine Children’s Alliance released the 2019 Maine KIDS COUNT Data Book, which shows several concerning statistics: (1) Maine has the highest rate in the U.S. of children diagnosed with anxiety, (2) the third-highest rate of children diagnosed with depression, and (3) a teen suicide rate that is already higher than the national average and increasing.

How It Furthers Thrive2027:

This bill impacts all three Thrive2027 goals and speaks directly to mitigating Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by taking a comprehensive approach to supporting families with young children based on a model that is proven to work.

It affects several Thrive2027 Strategies:

  1. Provide expanded access to high quality, nutritious food in neighborhoods, early care, and education settings. (Goal 1, Strategy 1)
  2. Develop and implement coordinated, thorough, and timely approaches to screening, referral, and services for developmental concerns. (Goal 1, Strategy 2)
  3. Promote policies, programs, and practices, that support connecting parents to health care coverage. (Goal 1, Strategy 4)
  4. Be responsive to and reduce the impact of toxic stress on children, families, and communities. (Goal 1, Strategy 5)
  5. Provide training in family engagement to encompass work with all families. (Goal 1, Strategy 8)
  6. Provide high-quality childcare with wraparound family services. (Goal 1, Strategy 9)
  7. Support communitywide understanding about the role of parents and communities in child development. (Goal 1, Strategy 12)
  8. Establish partnerships between schools and programs or organizations providing family supports. (Goal 1, Strategy 14)
  9. Promote social support systems; e.g., culturally appropriate family engagement, peer-to-peer support networks, and collaboration among agencies and organizations. (Goal 2, Strategy 6)
  10. Implement professional development for teachers and staff that focuses on trauma-informed and social-emotional learning. (Goal 2, Strategy 7)
  11. Increase the number of individuals and households who have access to affordable healthcare. (Goal 2, Strategy 24)
  12. Strengthen access and delivery of behavioral and physical healthcare. (Goal 3, Strategy 1)
  13. Prevent, identify, mitigate, and treat Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). (Goal 3, Strategy 2)
  14. Teach coping and problem-solving skills to enable individuals to tackle challenges, stress, and adversity. (Goal 3, Strategy 5)
  15. Lessen harms and prevent future risk by providing supports for individuals, families, and friends and ensuring safe reporting about an event. (Goal 3, Strategy 7)

 

To lend your support and help further policies and legislation that will further the goals of Thrive2027 and a thriving community, make your year-end gift today. 

 

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