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.