Question 1: Maine’s Universal Homecare Program

Mainers have an opportunity to ensure universal homecare for seniors and people living with disabilities this November. Question 1: HomeCare for All could be the first initiative to establish universal access to homecare in the country. Recent reports show that 27,000 seniors and people living with disabilities in Maine will have access to quality homecare if the initiative passes. Vote YES on Question 1 on November 6th. Wealthy people in Maine pay the lowest combined tax rate of any income group in the state; under homecare for all, everyone will contribute their fair share to establish universal homecare across the state.

 

Seniors and People Living with Disabilities Deserve Accessible Care and Independence

Maine has the oldest population in the country, with thousands of seniors and people with disabilities on waiting lists to receive homecare services. By 2030, the number of people over age 65 will double, with an increasing number of seniors needing assisted living services. Currently, families have to qualify for Medicaid or a similar means-tested program in order for family members to qualify for in-homecare or to provide the care themselves. People are often faced with the difficult decision of continuing to work full-time or quitting to provide care for their aging family members. Question 1 will support individuals receiving care, families, and homecare providers. In-homecare professionals work long hours for low wages and in some cases with no benefits, which makes it difficult to attract more people into the profession and retain those who are currently employed. Question 1: Homecare for All will address both: inaccessible in-homecare and job quality for homecare professionals.

This initiative is supported by senior citizens, disability rights, labor and veteran organizations

This initiative is supported by senior citizens, disability rights, labor and veteran organizations, including the Maine Alliance for Retired Americans, the Maine Direct Care Alliance, Caring Across Generations, the Maine AFL-CIO, the Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Justice in Aging. Mainers for Homecare is leading the campaign for Homecare for All. The Maine’s People Alliance (MPA) organization led the petition campaign and collected over 60,000 signatures to secure Question 1: Homecare for All onto the November ballot for voters to decide. The MPA campaign believes Maine can do more to support seniors  and people with disabilities and believes that Homecare for All is the bold solution Maine needs.

Question 1 Will Provide Affordable and Quality In-Homecare 

Mainers average cost for in-homecare is about $50,000, with assisted living homes costing twice as much. Currently, people spend their own money for these services, and those who don’t have the personal income to afford rising homecare costs suffer under this unfair system. Under Medicaid also known as Mainecare in the state, homecare access is based upon income eligibility and many people have to spend down their income and lose some assets to qualify. For veterans, the VA does not fully cover homecare and many veterans can’t independently live at home.  With this universal solution, Homecare for All will do the following:

  • Tax the wealthiest and invest in Homecare for All for Mainers

  • Grow the economy and improve the homecare profession

Taxing the wealthiest to invest in the homecare program

Homecare for All will make Maine’s tax system more equitable by ensuring the top earners in the state are paying their fair share. The top 10% of Mainers currently pay the lowest tax rate of any income group in the state, on average. Years of tax breaks and loopholes have given wealthier communities the ability to opt out of contributing an equal share into shared state resources. Individuals who earn over $128,400 a year in Maine contribute less to Social Security than other income groups because they do not have to pay payroll taxes on income above that threshold.

Question 1 will create a new payroll tax of 3.8% on top earners in Maine to close the gap. Homecare for All will also tax non-earned income (such as stocks and bonds) over $127,000. This money would be set aside in a Universal Homecare Trust Fund that is projected to accrue $180 million a year and could fully fund the in-homecare program.

The Universal Homecare Trust Fund will be overseen and managed by a board that includes nine members who represent all the relevant stakeholders: (a) individuals who represent personal care agencies; (b) individuals who are providers of in-homecare services and employees of care services; (c) individuals who are receiving in-homecare services or are family members of individuals receiving in-homecare services. People over the age of 65 or with one or more physical and/or mental health disability will be eligible to receive service under the initiative. There is also an assessment to that determines if individuals need help with activities of daily living to stay in their home.  The board won’t use income to determine eligibility for the program and, if necessary, based on demand, will establish a waiting list of eligible recipients in the order of received applicants.

Growing the economy and improving the homecare profession

Providing quality, affordable in-home care is the primary goal of the initiative, but there are other benefits from building the Universal Homecare Trust Fund. There is currently a shortage of individuals working in the homecare profession. In order to address this issue, the universal homecare program will establish more direct homecare jobs, improve job quality through increased wages, and recruit experienced homecare providers. The program will also provide funding for training and professional development to improve the overall benefits that direct homecare providers receive.

What You Can Do

Local Indivisibles are organizing with the Maine’s People Alliance coalition to support Homecare for All by joining canvasses and phone banks.

To find your local Indivisible group, visit https://indivisible.org/groups.

Sign up here to volunteer to text bank to get out the vote and pass Homecare for All.

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