Frequently Asked Questions
So what’s the problem?
Maine is the oldest state in the country and getting older. By 2030, the share of the population over 65 will double. The median annual cost of home care in Maine is over $50,000 a year. While that’s still much cheaper than a nursing home, it’s out of reach for most Maine families.
Every day, families are forced to make impossible decisions about how to care for their loved ones and too many of our elders are being forced out of homes they don’t want to leave.
At the same time, home care workers, despite being the fastest growing occupation in the country, barely make above minimum wage. Often they don’t make enough to support their own families. Turnover among home care workers is 67% a year.
How does Question 1 help?
Question 1 establishes a guarantee that any senior or Mainer with a disability who needs assistance with an activity of daily living to stay in their home will be able to get it. It will also provide support for family caregivers and increase wages for home care workers.
How will this initiative change tax rates for the wealthy?
The initiative is funded by a 3.8% tax on individual income over $128,400, affecting about the wealthiest two percent of Mainers.
Currently, everyone making below $128,400 pays a 12.4% payroll tax on all their income, while income above $128,400 isn’t taxed at all. Narrowing this tax loophole for the wealthy makes the tax system a bit more fair to fund vital care.
Could the tax somehow affect a wider range of people?
No. Unfortunately, some false claims have been made by opponents of the initiative, but every independent analyst, including the state Office of Fiscal and Program Review agree that it would only affect individual income over $128,400.
For wage income, employers will pay 1.9% and employees will pay 1.9% (total of 3.8%). For nonwage income, individuals will pay 3.8% of Maine adjusted gross income above the threshold, reduced by a credit for whatever amount would have already been accounted for by the tax on wage income paid by both the employee and employer.” –Maine Office of Fiscal and Program Review
Doesn’t Medicare cover home care?
No. Only Medicaid, meant for lower-income Mainers, covers some home care, and there are waiting lists for those programs. Even the VA doesn’t fully cover home care, leaving many Maine veterans without an option to stay at home.
How much money will Question 1 raise?
An analysis based on current tax returns estimates the initiative will raise $180 million annually into a dedicated home care fund, more than enough to fund current needs and prepare for an aging population.
How is the fund administered?
The home care fund will be overseen by a democratically-elected board representing care workers, care agencies and seniors and Mainers with disabilities and their families. The board will have the flexibility to expand existing programs, create new ones and make other expenditures to ensure the guarantee of universal home care is met.
The home care board is similar to many other governmental boards in Maine, including the Maine Potato Board, for one example. Under Maine law, the Potato Board is a governmental entity, is subject to audit and review, and receives funding from a tax set in statute. For the last 32 years, the membership of the Potato Board has been elected exclusively by “persons directly involved in the Maine potato industry.”
How does this initiative safeguard privacy?
This initiative goes beyond the requirements of state and federal privacy laws. Even basic contact information for caregivers and care recipients necessary to participate in board elections is only shared on a voluntary basis.
As an advocate for women and families for more than forty years, I know how important this initiative is for women in Maine, who make up the vast majority of home care workers and family caregivers. As a lawyer who has helped develop the privacy protections in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, I believe this important initiative protects the privacy and dignity of seniors and Mainers with disabilities.” – Judith Lichtman, National Partnership for Women & Families
How can we be sure the legislature will respect the will of the voters?
The funding will be managed by a democratically-elected board, not the legislature, making it more difficult to be redirected. Part of the campaign to pass the ballot measure must also focus on making sure legislators respect the will of the voters.
What do you mean by universal?
All Mainers will have access to home care, based on an assessment of whether or not they need help with activities of daily living, like bathing or preparing food, to stay in their home. No one will have to sell their home, quit their job or spend down their assets to qualify.
Will home care workers be able to join a union?
Yes. This initiatives guarantees the fundamental right of home care workers to form or join a union and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. What its doesn’t do is force anyone to join a union if they don’t want to. That’s also prohibited by federal law.
Who supports universal home care?
This campaign is endorsed by a wide range of senior citizen, disability rights, worker, small business and veteran organizations, including the Maine Alliance for Retired Americans, the Maine Direct Care Alliance, Caring Across Generations, the Maine People’s Alliance, the Maine AFL-CIO, the Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness, the Well Spouse Association, the Maine Small Business Coalition, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Justice in Aging.
Who has contributed to this campaign?
The campaign has received grants from worker, caregiver and senior groups and we’re proud that more than 3,500 individual Mainers have given to the campaign, with an average contribution of $24.