Governor Janet Mills today signed into law two pieces of legislation to help combat poverty in Maine. The package of bills – LD 1774, "An Act To Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments so Families Can Thrive" (LIFT), sponsored by Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport), and LD 1772, "An Act To Secure Transitions to Economic Prosperity for Maine Families and Children" (STEP), sponsored by House Minority Leader Trey Stewart (R-Presque Isle) – seek to help families in poverty meet their basic needs and ensure economic opportunities are accessible once those families are stabilized and able to take advantage of them. The bills passed the Legislature unanimously.
"Maine is confronting a workforce shortage that will be solved, in part, by making sure that every able adult is working, and every child is getting a good education that will allow them to flourish. But right now, poverty is holding too many families back from realizing this potential," said Governor Mills. "By signing these bills into law, we are lifting children and families out of poverty and helping them to step back into the workforce, obtain skills training, and get the education necessary for future success. I am grateful to Speaker Gideon, Representative Stewart, and the many others who worked so hard and in a bipartisan fashion on this critical issue."
"It was critical that I continued my work this session on the ultimate goal of making sure that families can gain financial independence and build their own path to prosperity. This legislation will result in real, positive change in the lives of Mainers experiencing poverty—those who are struggling and only want better, brighter futures for themselves and their kids," said Speaker Gideon. "By prioritizing education and training services and making the investments called for in these bills, we’re going to see the dividends pay off in a big way for our State’s economy today and in the years to come. I want to thank both Rep. Stewart and Governor Mills for their partnership, along the tireless work of the Invest in Tomorrow Coalition. I am so proud that these bills are now law."
"These reforms will aid in addressing the critical shortage of workers that we are facing in Maine," said Representative Stewart. "Working with folks who are currently in poverty and reforming our system of public assistance to ensure we are incentivizing the right behavior -- going to or back to work -- will be a critical component of this solution."
LIFT, sponsored by Speaker Gideon, aims to tackle the so-called MaineCare "benefits cliff" and gives more families access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits by eliminating the gross income test.
Representative Stewart's STEP bill reduces the benefits cliff for TANF recipients, addresses the SNAP benefits cliff, provides funding for whole-family economic security initiatives to apply for grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, and enables TANF recipients to count time spent pursuing their GED toward their work requirements.
Together, the bills make up the Invest in Tomorrow bill package, brought forward by a diverse group of stakeholders, which seeks to help families in poverty meet their basic needs and ensure economic opportunities are accessible once those families are stabilized and able to take advantage of them. Today nearly one in eight Maine children is growing up poor and one out of every five is food insecure, living in families that are unsure of where their next meal is coming from.
The laws will take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature.