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UWGP Legislative Update, 3/25/2021

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
March 25, 2021

Greetings Community Advocate,

United Way of Greater Portland (UWGP) is pleased to present this installment of our bi-weekly Legislative Update. Spring is here, and the smell of fresh cut grass is right around the corner. Meanwhile, this unique Maine Legislature session continues, and legislators are busy at work. We continue to track all introduced bills and public hearing schedules. With UWGP and Thrive2027 priorities in mind, we will keep you informed about bills that promise to strengthen critical outcomes for our communities. 

This week’s edition includes: 

  • A Federal Update – American Rescue Plan  
  • State Budget  
  • Bill Update: Racial Impact Statements and Reading Proficiency
  • Bill Watch List 
  • How to Advocate 

If you are not currently subscribed and want to have the Legislative Update delivered to your inbox every other week, please subscribe with the form at the bottom of this page. 

To connect with our Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Ninette Irabaruta, or contact advocacy@unitedwaygp.org.

FEDERAL UPDATE

On March 10, Congress passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 Relief Package, or the American Rescue Plan Act, which President Biden signed into law the next day. As reported in the Bangor Daily News, Maine could get more than $6 billion from the stimulus bill. The package includes an increase in the child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children aged 7-18. The tax credit is also fully refundable, available to parents who may not have paid enough in taxes to take full advantage of the credit in the past. 

More can be found about the American Rescue Plan Act on the U.S. Department of Treasury Fact Sheet.

UPDATE ON THE STATE BUDGET

On March 12, the Maine Legislature approved a supplemental budget for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30. The Senate unanimously approved the bill and the House approved it by a vote of 139-1.

The work sessions on the Governor’s proposed budget for FY 2022-2023 are ongoing.

TWO BILLS BECOME LAW!

The Governor has signed two bills into law that we supported.

First, the Governor signed LD 2, which establishes a requirement for racial impact statements in the Maine legislative process. As the sponsor Representative Rachel Talbot Ross testified, – “Racial injustice does not just harm Black, Indigenous and people of color. It harms all of us. As long as there are those among us who are hampered by it, our communities cannot reach our shared potential economically, culturally or intellectually.”

LD 2 is important because it can better ensure that public policies create a more equitable and resilient community for everyone.

The Governor also signed LD 138, “Resolve, Regarding Reading Proficiency Data Analysis,” which requires the Department of Education to conduct an analysis that focuses on measures, programs, resources, evidence-based practices, and educator supports that improve student growth. 

This important analysis will help ensure more students read proficiently by the end of the third grade, a critically important time in a child’s life, when they transition from learning to read to reading to learn.

We applaud all who worked tirelessly on these two bills. 

MAINE BILLS TO WATCH LIST

UWGP supports public policies that advance Thrive2027, a 10-year initiative to achieve measurable progress in the areas of education, financial stability, and health throughout Cumberland County.  
 
More than 1,600 bills have been introduced and we are reviewing them as they are published. Of the ones for which we currently have text, we have identified several that strengthen critical outcomes for our communities. 

GOAL 2: Empower Neighbors to Thrive – Not Just Survive

LD 292 – “An Act To Increase the Minimum Grant Amount under the Maine State Grant Program” (Introduced by Rep. Teresa Pierce of Falmouth)

This bill: (1) amends the Maine State Grant Program to make the minimum grant amount under the program, which is administered by FAME (Finance Authority of Maine), not be less than $2,500 if sufficient funds are appropriated for that purpose; and (2) provides ongoing funds of $10 million per year to the program in order to accomplish this goal.

The passage of this bill is important to Maine people who are first to go to college in their family, people from low-income families, and people of color. It’s also important for Maine’s higher education and workforce. The grant minimum has not been adjusted since 1992, and if passed, it will boost grants to $2,500 per year for full-time students in order to keep pace with the rising costs of college.

Status: The Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee has voted on this but it has not yet been reported out of committee.

GOAL 3: Help Us All Live Longer, Better

 

LD 8 – “An Act To Support Collection and Proper Disposal of Unwanted Drugs” (Introduced by Sen. Anne Carney of Cumberland) 

This bill provides for the establishment of drug take-back stewardship programs. It requires certain drug manufacturers, as defined in the bill, to operate a drug take-back stewardship program to collect and dispose of certain drugs.  

This bill is important because safe and regular disposal prevents medication misuse and ensures that medications do not end up in the wrong places. Passage of this bill is directly related to Goal 3’s work around substance use disorder, one of the leading causes of death.  

Status: The Environment and Natural Resources Committee has voted on this bill but it has not yet been reported out of committee.  

LD 372 – “An Act To Provide Maine Children Access to Affordable Health Care” (Introduced by Sen. Anne Carney of Cumberland) 

This bill makes changes to the Cub Care program, nationally known as CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), which is a program that provides health coverage for children from birth to age 19. Specifically, this bill would increase eligibility and expand coverage. 

This bill is important because relevant data¹ shows that in 2018 7.9% of low-income children in Maine and 9.3% of low-income children in Cumberland County were not insured. Access to affordable health care is a critically important strategy for Thrive2027 work and is foundational to all three goals. When Maine children have access to quality, affordable health care, they are better equipped to become healthy and successful adults. 

Status: The Health and Human Services Committee has voted on this bill but it has not yet been reported out of committee.  

PARTICIPATE IN A PUBLIC HEARING

If you wish to participate in a public hearing during the 130th Maine State Legislature, visit the Maine State Legislature – YouTube Channel. Each committee has its own feed, and at UWGP, we are closely monitoring these three committees: 

All other committees’ public hearings can be found here

If you would like to know more about how you can advocate for a thriving community, please contact us at advocacy@unitedwaygp.org

 

To lend your support and help further policies and legislation that will further the goals of Thrive2027, invest in the community through United Way of Greater Portland.