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.”