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Supporting Maine Families in the Legislature

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As a mother and parent of a high school student, I know the past two years have been an extraordinarily difficult time for families. Between our children being forced to learn at home, the struggle to find daycare, trying to keep your family healthy in the midst of a pandemic, and now a shortage of formula milk, the challenges abound. My colleagues and I know this, and this year we decided to help by taking new steps to support our hard-working families in Maine.

A major milestone that we achieved and that I am extremely proud of was the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, also known as CHIP. This program provides health insurance to Maine children whose families may exceed the income limit to qualify for MaineCare, but at the same time cannot afford coverage in the health insurance market. As a nurse, I have seen how helpful this program is in making sure children can see a doctor, stay healthy, and prepare for a long life. Lawmakers have also seen the big impact, and in the recent supplemental budget, we expanded CHIP coverage to an additional 40,000 children. Not only will this help keep children healthy, but it will also ease a huge burden on parents who have struggled to pay for childcare costs.

Inflation and rising costs have also had a significant impact on families. To help combat this, we’ve expanded Maine’s working income tax credit, which is intended to help low- and middle-income families. In the supplementary estimates, we increased the value of the credit by approximately $400, bringing the benefit per family to an average of $764 per year. I know this expanded credit will go a long way to putting more money back in the pockets of families who need it most.

We also passed a new measure to support those looking to start a family here in Maine. The new law, LD 1539, will require state-regulated health insurance plans to cover fertility treatments for both men and women. Although the issue is not often discussed in public, nearly one in eight couples face infertility issues. Unfortunately, these treatments can be extremely expensive, and currently many insurers do not cover them. Those looking to start a family should not be penalized for something they cannot control. Not only is that wrong, but Maine is also losing couples who move to states that require coverage for fertility treatments. Ensuring Mainers can get all the treatment they need means more people can start and raise families right here at home the way they want. We’re also working on setting up a paid family and medical leave program here in Maine, so that new parents can take paid time off after having a child, or people can get time off for d other family emergencies. This year, we have funded a new study that will tell us how best to proceed to make the program a reality.

Looking back, I’m proud of the steps lawmakers have taken to support Maine families across the state. Things aren’t easy these days, but we strive to ensure that children and families can lead happy and healthy lives.

You can always email me at [email protected] or call my office at (207) 287-1515. Follow my Facebook page for updates at Facebook.com/SenatorStacyBrenner.