Maine Working Families Cannot Make Ends Meet

January 16, 2013 by

Maine ranks 21st in the number of low-income working families

A new study shows that 29% of Maine families cannot meet basic needs, even though they are working, often more than one job.

The number of low-income working families – sometimes called the working poor – totaled 37,000 in Maine in 2011 according to the Working Poor Families Project (WPFP) in a new report.

The report says:

There is a common misperception that low-income families are “takers” who do not work instead relying on government assistance.

Not true. Sixty-nine percent of low-income Maine families work. But they still do not earn enough to support their families’ basic needs.

Why?

Jobs available for low-income Mainers are often in low-wage sectors: retail, food preparation, food service, clerical, and customer assistance.

  • Low-income working families spend more as a percentage of their income on housing costs such as mortgage or rent payments, utility costs, and other expenses.
  • Working families, especially in rural areas, commute long distances to work and are squeezed by the high cost of gasoline.
  • Workers in low-paying and part-time jobs do not have employer-sponsored health insurance and often have no coverage at all. Medical costs cause more than 60% of bankruptcies in this country.
  • Low-income working families often lack the skills and education to compete for better-paying jobs. One in 13 Mainers does not have a high school diploma. Just 27% have a four-year college degree.
  • Reductions in state investments in two- and four-year colleges have led to increases in tuition and fees, making post-secondary education less affordable.
  • Low-income parents lack child care or work long hours and on nights and weekends, making going back to school more difficult.

These families do not end up in poverty by chance. Deliberate policy decisions made by the governor and legislature have limited opportunities for low-income Mainers. Securing the future for low-income Maine families requires investing in health care, child care, and education.  As we enter the budget season in Maine, MECEP will be working to make sure working families get a fair shot at a better quality of life.

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