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Unfortunate Cautionary Tale of Poverty in Maine

In Maine, 100,000 fewer people are getting assistance with food, shelter or medical care than in 2011. (Steve Baker/Flickr)
In Maine, 100,000 fewer people are getting assistance with food, shelter or medical care than in 2011. (Steve Baker/Flickr)
November 20, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine – The United States is making headway in the fight against poverty, but it’s progress not being felt in Maine.

A new report finds that while poverty fell dramatically in the U.S. between 2015 and 2016, Maine's poverty rate did not budge.

And since 2011, the proportion of U.S. children living in deep poverty decreased more than 4 percent, but jumped in Maine by more than 13 percent.

Maine Equal Justice Partners, along with the Coalition on Human Needs, released the report and policy analyst Joby Thoyalil warns that proposals on Capitol Hill threaten to push even more Mainers into poverty.

"Look at the unfortunate outcomes in Maine,” he states. “Clearly we have not been sharing in the progress that the country as a whole has been sharing in, and we would urge Congress to look at Maine as a cautionary tale."

Food security is another area where Maine is losing ground while the nation sees improvements.

And with Medicaid expansion just recently passed, Maine is not enjoying the same progress in the uninsured rates that occurred in other states as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

Thoyalil says due to so-called welfare reform policies at the state level, 100,000 fewer people are getting assistance with food, shelter or medical care than in 2011.

"100,000 fewer people are getting help,” he states. “It doesn't mean 100,000 fewer people need help. In fact, we know that they're not better off, we know that there are higher rates of hunger, worse health outcome and higher rates of children living in extreme poverty."

The 2018 budget passed by Congress would cut about $3 trillion over a decade to programs that assist struggling families.

But Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, says with the country edging closer to pre-recession poverty levels, now is not the time to reverse progress.

"We still have more than 40 million people poor in this country,” she points out. “There's been progress for children, but we still have 18 percent of children living in poverty and that's just not acceptable."

The Trump administration maintains the cuts will create jobs and boost the economy.
More than 160,000 Mainers, including about 43,000 children, live in poverty.



Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - ME