By Cara DeRose (05/02/19)
Every year, thousands of Mainers struggle to make ends meet, heat their homes and support their families. A billintroduced by Rep. Maureen “Mo” Terry (D-Gorham) to create a new state version of the federal earned income tax credit (EITC), called the Maine Work Credit, could help.
Under Terry’s bill, about $91 million in refundable tax breaks would go to 177,000 households across the state. In addition to those working paid jobs, more than 14,000 unpaid family care givers and almost 2,000 low-income students would also be included.
“The margins for low-income working people’s budgets are so slim. One mishap can really throw a family like mine into crisis,” said Brad York of Sabattus, a single father who cares for three children and a disabled mother, at a press conference supporting the bill Thursday before a public hearing before the Taxation Committee. “This bill would give many families the ability to pay for the basics without going into deeper debt or having the rug pulled out from under them.”
One in seven Mainers qualify for the federal EITC and, across the country, it’s responsible for lifting four million people out of poverty every year. In 2017, more than 103,000 Maine households received $212 million through the federal credit, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
“I’m a full-time student. I’m a single mother of two. Going to school full-time and being a mother does not mean I can work a tradition job,” said Susan Kiralis, a Vassalboro resident attending the University of Maine Augusta, who started her own small business to make ends meet. “It’s important for me and my kids to be independent. A little extra income would go a long way for me and my kids.”
Kiralis explained that there are times where she must make impossible choices — like paying her light bill or her car insurance — just to maintain a basic standard of living,
“I think about how scary it is, if [there’s] an emergency,” she said.
The Maine Work Credit could help keep her and other parents going back to school to qualify for good-paying jobs and stay “above water,” she said.
“This bill will put money in the hands of working Maine taxpayers,” said Rep. Terry, speaking at the press conference. “We’ll be helping families become financially healthy and enabling them to afford their basic needs. We’ll be injecting money into our economy. And we’ll be supporting the Mainers who need it most.”
Nationally, similar ideas are gaining traction. Presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and others have also said they are in favor of broadening the federal EITC to include caregivers and low-income students, including those without children.