At Indivisible Boothbay's monthly meeting March 29, guest speaker Esther Pew, statewide community organizer for the Maine People's Alliance (MPA), spoke in favor of a coming ballot issue for universal home care for seniors and the disabled.
“This is a referendum that is really important especially in the state of Maine, especially in Lincoln County. That’s because our state is the oldest state in the nation and Lincoln County is the oldest county in the state,” said Pew.
With average full-time home care costing $54,000 per person per year now, Pew explained this initiative would give over 10,000 seniors and disabled people access to home care regardless of income. An assessment of how dependent the person is on help with regular daily activities will be used to gauge how many hours per day or per week are needed. Pew said this would benefit those who need help buying and transporting groceries, managing medications, and eating, bathing and dressing, for example.
The program will be funded through a 1.9 percent payroll tax increase on salaries over $128,400 and a 3.8 percent tax increase on non-wage income from the same bracket. According to Pew, this will close a tax loophole that exempts those making over $128,400 from paying into social security, and these increases would bring about $132 million which would fully fund the program. This will also encourage the market for home caregivers who are often paid little due to volatile disbursements of MaineCare dollars, said Pew. She said some of the funding will go toward wage increases.
“More importantly, $54,000 is the average for full-time care for an entire year,” MPA Communications Director Mike Tipping said in an email. “That figure is more useful as a comparison with institutional care … Most people don't need that much or for that period of time.”
This means that rather than a one-size-fits-all system, which can often lead to unwanted or unneeded attention, assessments on a person-to-person basis will provide people with the care they need tailored to their home, surroundings and lifestyle.
“Most folks want to stay in their homes as they get older – or if they have a disability – and don’t want to end up in a nursing home,” said Pew.
As care would vary from person to person, Pew said a great part of this initiative is it would be run by a board composed of people directly impacted by home care – employers, participants and those who have not had the means to provide themselves with care.
Said Pew, “This will make it possible for everyone to access the services they deserve and need … Maine could be the first in the nation to pass something like this and really show that we care about our seniors, that we care about folks with disabilities.”