SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Some Maine Legislators are teaming with caregivers in pushing for a bold approach to solve what they call a growing care crisis for children and the elderly.
A bill submitted to the legislature would create a Universal Care System, giving families free child care and home based care for the elderly and disabled. It would be paid for by lifting the cap on the state’s payroll taxes.
Tabatha Whalen knows first-hand the difficulty of paying for child care while you’re out trying to make a living.
“When I did get child care, it was a third of my paycheck and the struggle was very real. Sometimes I went without being able to put food on the table”, Whalen said.
When her son was 5, she made the difficult choice of trying to watch him while working.
“Which is why I felt very conflicted bringing him into work, I had no options, I had to pay bills", she said.
Some lawmakers and advocates say many families find themselves in similar situations. Its not just with young children. Caring for the elderly can be just as challenging and expensive. Skip Worcester said his mother wanted to stay at her home, but with few affordable options for home care, she was moved into a nursing home. She died not long after making the move.
“And just a little bit of help in home care, would have stopped her from being put in to the nursing home”, Worcester said.
Westbrook Democratic Representative is sponsoring a bill which would provide universal care for all Mainers. It would be paid for by lifting the cap on payroll taxes. People are now taxed only up to $118,000 of their salaries. Lifting that cap is expected to generate about $400-million a year.
“We’re not going to propose something and not propose a funding source and this seems like the right way to do it”, said Gattine (D) Westbrook.
The plan and the cost are expected to be met with resistance.
While acknowledging they face an uphill battle, supporters say it’s not impossible. They say no one ever thought Maine’s minimum wage would nearly double, but people supported that.
The bill is expected to be printed and assigned to a legislative committee for debate within the next few weeks.