Maine veterans make the case for Question 1

Maine veterans make the case for Question 1

New report shows need for home care for vets

Maine veterans who support Question 1 on Tuesday’s ballot spoke at events in Bangor and Portland today to highlight the unmet need for home care for those who have served.

“I am 80 years old and have trouble walking from a helicopter accident from when I was in the military. I live with my wife and would be devastated if one of us were forced to leave our home for a nursing home,” said Jerry Genesio of Scarborough. “Please vote yes on Question 1. Help veterans like me to maintain our dignity and independence. It’s the right thing to do.”

Common Defense, a national veterans’ organization, today released a report showing that nearly half of Maine veterans are already over the age of 65 and that proportion is quickly growing.

“The need for care services that meet the specific and growing care needs of Maine veterans is serious and immediate,” explained Common Defense Maine member Alicia Barnes. “Veterans are even more at risk for conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, than the general public, because of the prevalence of Traumatic Brain Injuries and conditions like PTSD.”

“Right now, Maine veterans aren’t getting the assistance they need. The VA does a good job in many areas, but too many vets are being forced from their homes and into facility-based care,” said Barnes.

Question One will guarantee that all seniors and Mainers with disabilities can get the home care assistance they need to stay at home, funded by closing a tax loophole affecting the wealthiest 2.6%.

The initiative is opposed by a coalition of corporate political action committees, including Maine’s nursing home lobby.

“The nursing home lobby is trying to confuse older Mainers about question 1 to protect their profits. The Portland Press Herald called what they’re doing ‘dishonest scare tactics’. I call them just plain lies,” said Wilbur ‘Skip’ Worcester of Hermon, a U.S. Army veteran. “When you go vote on Tuesday, vote for a better future for seniors, veterans and our whole state. Don’t let the liars win.”

Click here to access a copy of the report.

Maine Seniors Demand that Nursing Home Lobby Stop Lying About Question 1

Maine Seniors Demand that Nursing Home Lobby Stop Lying About Question 1

Holding signs reading “We’re old, not stupid!” more than a dozen seniors and home care activists from across the state visited the Maine nursing home lobby’s office in Augusta today to demand that the organization stop misleading voters about Question 1, the universal home care referendum on the ballot this November.

The Maine Health Care Association (MHCA), which lobbies on behalf of the state’s nursing homes, is helping to lead the effort opposing Question One, which seeks to guarantee that seniors and Mainers with disabilities can get the assistance they need to stay in their homes. A report from the Muskie School of Public Service released last month estimates that more than 21,000 Mainers are currently going without needed home care services.

“It’s just wrong that the nursing home lobby is lying about Question One and standing in the way of the home care that so many veterans need,” said Wilbur “Skip” Worcester, a senior and veteran from Hermon. “Some nursing homes provide good care, but many don’t, and seniors don’t ever want to be forced from their homes. With Question One, more seniors and veterans can stay at home.”

Contrary to claims from the nursing home lobby and the No on One campaign, Question One would safeguard the privacy of older adults, protect the collective bargaining rights of home care workers without forcing them to join any organization and is funded by a tax on wealthiest 2.6%, those making more than $128,400 in individual income.

“I cared for my mother with Alzheimer’s for as long as I could at home, but with no help, it eventually got to be too much and she had to go to a nursing home,” said Carolyn Silvas, a senior from Portland. “It was awful. She hated every moment of it. Every time I would go to visit her she’d say ‘I just wish I could die and get this over with.’ Eventually she did. No more seniors should be forced from their homes and no children should have to watch their parents die under those conditions.”

Since 2015, Maine nursing homes have been found to be in violation of federal safety and quality regulations 1,114 times. These include disturbing violations like “hiring workers with a ‘legal history of abusing, neglecting or mistreating residents'” and failure to properly label drugs, abuses that can be fatal for Maine seniors.

Despite this widespread abuse, Maine is still prioritizing nursing homes over home care, which is more expensive to the system, less desirable to seniors, and often results in worse health outcomes. As the rest of the nation moves toward significantly increasing the amount of care provided in home and community-based settings, Maine has moved in the other direction, and now ranks last in the nation in home care affordability.

Mainers explain why they’re voting early for Question 1

Mainers explain why they’re voting early for Question 1

With absentee ballots having arrived at town offices across Maine this week, voters can now cast their ballots in-person as well as requesting a ballot by mail. At an event outside Bangor City Hall on Thursday, six Mainers explained why they’re voting early and voting in favor of Question One.

Maine voters can visit VoteEarly.me to request an absentee ballot online or find the location of their local town office.

“If we want to keep young people in Maine, we need to pass Question 1. It isn’t just about helping Maine elderly community members age in their homes, it is also about creating good jobs that pay fair wages, especially in rural Maine,” said Jessica Holz, a former home care worker, who noted that her former colleagues make just above minimum wage, with no benefits and the industry faces turnover of 67% a year.

Question 1 will guarantee that all seniors and Mainers with disabilities can get the care they need to stay at home, paid for by narrowing a tax loophole on those who make more than $128,400 a year in personal income, the wealthiest 2.6%.

“Maine has one of the largest and oldest veteran populations in the country. You might think that the VA would cover home care, but too often it doesn’t. Too many veterans right now are suffering from a lack of care or are being sent to facilities far away from their families,” said Alicia Barnes, speaking on behalf of the veterans’ organization Common Defense. “It doesn’t have to be this way. With Question 1, we can make sure that no Maine veteran is left behind.”

In addition to being preferable for older Mainers’ well-being, home care is also far less expensive than institutional care, costing an average of $50,000 a year, compared to more than $100,000 for a nursing home. But even that lower expense puts home care services out of reach for most Maine families.

“Right now, too many Mainers are losing their life savings, seeing their families torn apart, or being forced into nursing homes because of a lack of basic home care,” said Judith Hilton, a small business owner who works two jobs to provide care for her 92-year-old father. “Universal Home Care, paid for by a relatively small tax on those who can best afford it, will only become more necessary as Maine continues to age. It’s time to put this sensible solution into practice.”

“Let’s honor our loved ones and those who served,” said Wilbur ‘Skip’ Worceseter, a U.S. Army veteran from Hermon. “Join me in voting early, today, for yes on Question One.”

 

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.”