Faith leaders, veterans, teachers and caregivers endorse Question 1

Faith leaders, veterans, teachers and caregivers endorse Question 1

Mainers for Home Care today announced the endorsements of a set of new organizations, joining more than forty groups that launched the Yes on One coalition last month. Representatives of the Maine Council of Churches, Common Defense, the Well Spouse Association and the Maine Education Association spoke at an event at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Brewer today to declare their support for Question One.

“I’m working part-time here at St. Patricks, after I actually retired six years ago, and I’m doing that to help pay for care for my 95-year-old mother who is living in my home and my 38-year-old daughter who has Down Syndrome,” said Father Myrick Cross, speaking on behalf of the Maine Council of Churches, which includes seven denominations and hundreds of congregations in Maine. “I’m happy to be able to endorse this and I encourage you to vote yes on Question One.”

Question One, the universal home care referendum, will guarantee that all seniors and Mainers with disabilities can access the care they need to stay at home, funded by narrowing a tax loophole for individuals making more than $128,400 in personal income.

“It was on our third date, twenty-five years ago, that my wife Debbie told me that she had MS. She handed me a book and I read up and got some knowledge on it and thought about whether I could do it, and I said ‘definitely yes.’ I was in by then,” said Rick Alexander of Blue Hill, speaking on behalf of the Well Spouse Association. “While my wife and I are facing these issues now, every one of us is just one accident or one disease away from needing this kind of care.”

“Maine is the oldest state in the country and getting older. The need is increasing every day. Question 1 represents the best chance for Maine families to be able to help keep their loved ones at home, where they belong,” said Corley Ann Byras, a former teacher and current president of Maine Education Association – Retired.

“I cared for both of my parents in a handicapped addition we built onto our home in Bowdoin until they died, my father at 87 and my mother at 97. It was tough, and we couldn’t have done it if my husband hadn’t worked nights at BIW so they could have 24-hour care,” said Byras.

More than half of Mainers have experience with caregiving, either providing care for a relative or having needed home care themselves.

“Maine has one of the largest and oldest veteran populations in the country. When our country called, Mainers served. Now, we’re getting older,” said Dick Bissell a former Army medic, nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center and member of Common Defense, a national veterans organization. “With Question 1, we can make sure that no Maine veteran is left behind. We can guarantee that everyone who needs basic care to stay in their homes can get it, and we can make the whole system more fair, with the wealthiest 2.6% paying a bit closer to what the rest of us already pay in taxes.”

“It’s time to do right by our veterans and our seniors. It’s time to vote Yes on Question 1.”

Two new reports demonstrate positive impact of Question 1

Two new reports demonstrate positive impact of Question 1

Muskie School study shows unmet need, MECEP analysis shows how tax loophole will be narrowed

State and national experts on long-term care and aging and advocates for universal home care are reacting to two new reports on the effects of Question 1.

A study released on Thursday by the Muskie School for Public Service at the University of Southern Maine on implementation of universal home care describes how existing waiting lists for services would be eliminated, federal matching funds would be increased and 27,000 Mainers, most going without care, would have access to needed home care services.

“The biggest and most important takeaway from this report is clear: 27,000 Mainers, many of whom currently receive no help at all in meeting their family’s care needs, would be eligible for assistance if Question 1 passes and is implemented,” said Kevin Simowitz, political director Caring Across Generations, a national caregiving advocacy group. “Most of those 27,000 Mainers are currently in the position of making impossibly difficult choices, running through whatever savings they might have to pay for care or leaving the workforce to become a family caregiver for a parent or spouse. Without universal homecare, those families will remain without help for the care they need.”

A new analysis released this morning by the Maine Center for Economic Policy shows that the funding mechanism for the initiative, which would “partially close the social security tax loophole,” would affect the 34,442 wealthiest individuals in the state, or 2.56% of the total population.

Previous analysis by MECEP has shown that the top 5% wealthiest Mainers currently pay a lower effective tax rate than all other income groups.

“We’ve been trying to serve a larger and larger population with a finite pool of resources,” said Stephen Campbell, data and policy analyst for PHI, the nation’s leading authority on the long-term care workforce, in a media conference on Thursday. “Question one could change that by providing the investment we need to increase job quality and reduce the burden on family caregivers.”

“Most people don’t understand that long-term care is not funded by Medicare,” explained Professor Sandra Butler, Resident Scholar at the Center on Aging at the University of Maine. “They come up short when they need it and is often unattainable for a great majority older adults because they don’t have the resources. Question 1 responds to that very broad-based need.”

Carolyn Silvius, a senior from Portland, said she experienced these issues firsthand when trying to care for her mother with Alzheimers.

“I think she could have lived much longer. She was very unhappy in the nursing home. Every time I would go to visit her I’d her from her ‘I just wish I could die and get this over with,'” said Silvius. “Had home care for all been available at the time, I think there would have been a very much different situation.”

Muskie School study: An Analysis of the Universal Home Care Program: Considerations for Implementation with the Context of Maine’s Existing LTSS Programs

MECEP report: New analysis: Home care tax would affect top 3 percent of wealthiest Mainers

National expert: Question 1 can address Maine’s ‘home care crisis’

National expert: Question 1 can address Maine’s ‘home care crisis’

Stephen Campbell, data and policy analyst for PHI, the nation’s leading authority on the direct care workforce, spoke in Portland on Tuesday about the demographic changes and policy decisions that have led Maine to the brink of a “home care crisis,” and how Question 1 on November’s ballot can help.

“The population of people age 65 and over is growing exponentially here in Maine, but there is a declining population of working-age adults who can care for them and two thirds of the home care workforce leaves their jobs every year,” said Campbell. “Question 1 could provide the answer to this crisis.”

Campbell will also speak at the Maine Wisdom Summit tomorrow in Augusta.

Rhiannon L’Heureux, a former home care worker who now works at a nursing facility, described why she left the home care field, as well as the difficulty her family faced caring for her twin sister, left with a severe disability after an accident, in rural Maine.

“In the end, I just couldn’t afford to keep working for such low wages and I had to quit, like so many of our best home care workers do every year,” said L’Heureux. “It’s because I love my sister and because I loved my clients that I support Question 1.”

Abdullahi Ali, CEO of a home care agencies with offices in Portland, Lewiston and Augusta, agreed with Campbell’s assessment.

“The most difficult aspect of home care right now is how poorly we are able to compensate those who do this vital work for some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Ali. “At the current rate, there’s no room to pay for training or advancement. Home care workers don’t get the respect and the career opportunities they deserve.”

Question 1 will guarantee that all seniors and Mainers with disabilities can access needed home care, paid for through a tax on the wealthiest 1.6% of individual income earners.

“With Question 1 we can chart a new path forward for a long-term care system for the 21st Century,” said Campbell. “That’s not just something we can do here in Maine. It could be the start of something much bigger, across the country.”

“We need to think creatively about how we can solve these problems so we can ensure that people are getting the care they need and that we’re well prepared for the future,” said Campbell.

Mainers for Home Care Coalition Launches Yes on 1 Campaign

Mainers for Home Care Coalition Launches Yes on 1 Campaign

After more than a year of collecting signatures and grassroots organizing, the Yes on 1 campaign kicked off in earnest on Tuesday, with a press conference at Gateway Community Services in Portland. Family caregivers, home care workers, seniors, veterans and representatives of some of more than forty endorsing organizations spoke in favor of the referendum on the ballot this November.

“We’re not asking for much, just the dignity and independence that every Mainer deserves. We’re all getting older,” said Brenda Calvet, a former Certified Nursing Assistant who cares for her mother at home in Windham.

Question 1 will guarantee that seniors and Mainers with disabilities will have access to the assistance they need to stay in their own homes, paid for by narrowing a tax loophole that benefits individuals making more than $128,400 a year.

“A lot of us who served in Vietnam are just now realizing that the VA doesn’t always cover the home care we need. Thousands of vets are on waitlists or being sent to facilities far away from their families,” said Skip Worcester of Hermon. “That’s just wrong. They fought for our country and the least we can do is make sure they can live with freedom and independence in their own homes. It’s cheaper for all of us and it’s better for them.”

Endorsing organizations include senior and disability rights groups, labor unions, community organizations, home care worker and agency associations and others.

Supporters cited changing demographics and a critical shortage of home care workers as important reasons for voters to support the measure.

“I’ve always made very little money in home care, just over minimum wage, with no paid sick days or health insurance. At one point, I was working three jobs just to make the rent,” said Leighann Gillis of Westbrook, a home care worker caring for a client with disabilities. “A lot of people would quit and find other work. Many do. Home care has incredibly high turnover. But I refuse to leave a job I love and leave the people I deeply care for without the help they need.”

“Maine is the oldest state in the country and getting older. Thousands of families are facing impossible choices and unaffordable expenses trying to care for their loved ones,” said campaign manager Ben Chin. “It’s time to guarantee that no more seniors are forced from their homes.”

Corporate PACs fund No on One campaign

Corporate PACs fund No on One campaign

Corporations profiting from seniors losing homes are biggest funders

Campaign finance reports show that the “No on Question One PAC,” the opposition campaign to the universal home care citizen initiative on the ballot this November, is funded almost entirely by corporate political action committees. The largest donors, at $25,000 each in initial disclosures, are the Maine Association of Realtors and the Maine Bankers Association PAC, two lobby groups representing companies that profit from seniors being forced from their homes due to a lack of accessible home care. (1)

Additionally, television advertisement reservation records show that sometime after that finance report, the opposition PAC reserved more than $800,000 in TV time. The ads were placed by SRCP Media, the firm responsible for the infamous “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” commercials in the 2004 presidential election. (2)

In contrast, the committees supporting Question One have been funded entirely by groups representing caregivers, workers and seniors, as well as by more than 3,500 individual Mainers, with an average contribution of just $24.

“We are proud not to have accepted a single dime in corporate PAC money. We are incredibly grateful that thousands of Mainers from across the state have stepped up and given what they can to make sure that seniors and people with disabilities will be able to live with dignity in their own homes,” said Mike Tipping, communications director for Mainers for Home Care. “It’s sickening that corporations profiting off seniors being forced from their homes are spreading lies and trying to prop up a broken system, but we’ve seen grassroots campaigns beat big corporate money many times in Maine and I’m confident voters will do the right thing in November.”

1. https://www.mainecampaignfinance.com/#/exploreCommitteeDetail/6246
2. http://srcpmedia.com/clients/

Universal home care campaign sees surge in grassroots support

Universal home care campaign sees surge in grassroots support

In new campaign finance filings, the committees backing a yes vote on Question 1, the citizen initiative to guarantee home care is available for seniors and Mainers with disabilities, reported raising more than $86,000 from small-dollar individual contributors since the campaign began.

That total includes 3,586 individual contributors, with an average contribution of just $24.

“We’re proud of the broad support we’ve seen from every part of Maine,” said Mainers for Home Care spokesperson Mike Tipping. “We’re the oldest state in the country, and half of Mainers already have experience as caregivers or recipients of care, so it’s not surprising we’d see this level of support. Too many Mainers are going bankrupt trying to care for loved ones, or are being forced into nursing homes unnecessarily. Everyone should have the freedom to live at home with dignity.”

Universal homecare referendum will help thousands of Maine families

Universal homecare referendum will help thousands of Maine families

With the release of ballot question language from the office of Maine’s Secretary of State, grassroots supporters applauded another step forward in the campaign to guarantee that senior citizens and Mainers with disabilities can receive the assistance they need to stay in their homes.

“My husband Roland was diagnosed six years ago with Alzheimer’s at the age of 57. That one cruel twist of fate has changed the path of our lives forever,” said Debra Bourque, a small business owner from Biddeford. “Money is tight to pay for care he needs, and whatever money we had saved for retirement is quickly depleting. We need to make sure Maine seniors can live with their families, in their own homes, and on their own terms.”

Hundreds of volunteers gathered almost 70,000 signatures to place the universal homecare measure on the ballot this November, which would narrow a tax loophole benefiting the richest 1.6% in order to guarantee that homecare is available to all Mainers who need it.

“We all know the problem. In our rapidly-aging state, too many seniors are being forced from their homes. Too many people with disabilities can’t get the care they need,” said Miri Lyons, a former homecare worker and current family caregiver from Boothbay. “Homecare for all will fix that. It’s a guarantee that if you need help staying in your home, you can get it. It’s also a plan to raise wages for workers and professionalize the home care industry, creating good jobs and making sure caregivers are there when they’re needed.”

Homecare referendum heads to voters

Homecare referendum heads to voters

The citizen initiative to allow Maine seniors and people with disabilities to stay in their homes and receive needed care cleared a legislative hurdle in the Maine House of Representatives today, with a 75-68 vote to send the measure directly to voters.

“This vote gives hope to Maine families who are making impossible choices to care for their loved ones, seniors who are afraid of losing their independence and homecare workers who do vital jobs for little pay,” said Mainers for Homecare communications director Mike Tipping. “Maine people will now have a chance to cast a ballot on one of the most important issues facing our aging state.”

The Homecare for All initiative will guarantee access to in-home care for all seniors and Mainers with disabilities who need assistance with an activity of daily living. The program is funded by partially closing a payroll tax loophole that only benefits those making more than $128,400 a year in individual income. Hundreds of volunteers gathered more than 65,000 signatures to place the measure on the ballot this November.

Homecare referendum signatures verified

Homecare referendum signatures verified

Maine’s Secretary of State announced today that the grassroots effort to ensure seniors and Mainers with disabilities can get the care they need to stay in their own homes has collected enough valid signatures to place a citizen-initiated referendum on the ballot this November.

64,842 of the submitted signatures have been found to be valid. That’s more than the 61,123 (or 10 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election) required for a Citizen Initiative to go to a statewide vote.

“We all know the challenge we face. In our rapidly-aging state, too many seniors are being forced from their homes and too many people with disabilities can’t get the care they need,” said Miri Lyons of Boothbay Harbor, a former homecare worker and a family caregiver for a child with a disability. “I’m so proud that Mainers are going to be able to vote to solve this problem. This referendum represents a guarantee that if you need help staying in your home, you can get it.”

Within ten days, the Secretary of State will refer the initiative to the legislature, where they can choose to pass the measure into law or send it out to Maine voters.

If passed, the ballot measure would guarantee home care is available for any Maine senior or person with a disability who needs assistance with an activity of daily living, regardless of their family situation or income level. The law also includes measures to assist family caregivers and make licensed homecare a more attractive career, including guaranteeing higher wages for homecare workers.

“You might think that veterans would already be covered for homecare, but for too many vets that’s not the case,” said Skip Worcester, a U.S. Army veteran from Hermon who helped collect signatures for the initiative. “Veterans who need long-term help are frequently sent to facilities, often far away from their families. That’s just wrong. The least we can do is make sure those who fought for our country can live with freedom and independence in their own homes.”

Additional care guaranteed by the measure is paid for by partially closing a payroll and unearned income tax loophole on income in excess of $128,400 a year. Currently, individuals making in excess of that amount don’t pay into Social Security for income above that threshold.

Hundreds of volunteers have gathered signatures for the measure across the state at polling places, post offices, coffee shops and parking lots over the last several months, often braving freezing temperatures to connect with registered voters and build support for the campaign.

Homecare for all referendum campaign submits more than 67,000 signatures

Homecare for all referendum campaign submits more than 67,000 signatures

Seniors, care workers, family members of Mainers with disabilities and campaign volunteers gathered at the State House in Augusta today to announce that they have hit their signature goal and are submitting more than 67,000 signatures to Maine’s Secretary of State to place a citizen initiative on the November ballot guaranteeing access to in-home care.

“We all know the problem. In our rapidly-aging state, too many seniors are being forced from their homes and too many people with disabilities can’t get the care they need,” said Miri Lyons of Boothbay Harbor, a former homecare worker and a family caregiver for a child with a disability. “Homecare for all will fix that. It’s a guarantee that if you need help staying in your home, you can get it.”

Hundreds of volunteers have been gathering signatures for the measure across the state at polling places, post offices, coffee shops and parking lots over the last several months, often braving freezing temperatures to connect with more than ten percent of the voters who cast ballots in the last election for governor. 61,123 valid signatures are required to place a citizen initiative on the ballot.

“You might think that veterans would already be covered for homecare, but for too many vets that’s not the case,” said Skip Worcester, a U.S. Army veteran from Hermon. “Veterans who need long-term help are frequently sent to facilities, often far away from their families. That’s just wrong. The least we can do is make sure those who fought for our country can live with freedom and independence in their own homes.”

In addition to guaranteeing home care is available for any senior or Mainer with a disability who needs assistance with an activity of daily living, regardless of their family situation or income level, the ballot measure also includes measures to assist family caregivers and make homecare a more attractive career, including higher wages and greater professionalization.

“I work full time and make eleven dollars and fifty cents an hour. Starting pay at my company is minimum wage. I rely on food stamps and Section Eight to keep my son fed and housed,” said Maddie Hart, a home care worker from Auburn. “My work is challenging, dangerous, and skilled. Homecare workers deserve to be paid enough to support our families. This referendum will help get us there.”

Additional care guaranteed by the measure is paid for by partially closing a payroll and unearned income tax loophole on income in excess of $127,000 a year.

Once signatures are validated by the office of Maine’s Secretary of State, the initiative will go before the legislature, where they may choose to adopt it as law or send it to a public vote.

“I will always be grateful to the caregivers who helped me to care for my mother in the last years of her life,” said Bonnie Laughlin, a senior from Limington who helped to gather signatures for the initiative. “We need more caregivers and more options for Maine seniors to get their care at home. I like so many things about this homecare bill.”