The blog post below was written by MCA Board Member Shawn Yardley on the upcoming ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage in Maine.
When our children prosper, so does the rest of our state, which is why we ought to do everything in our power to make this happen. This means making sure they have the resources, supports and opportunities they need to succeed, starting with family economic security. One way is by supporting Question 4 this November.
For the past 12 years, I have had the pleasure of serving on the board of the Maine Children’s Alliance where we rely on research and data to support policies and practices that improve the lives of Maine children, youth and families. We recognize that almost everything we do as adults impacts the lives of kids and we try our best to give them a voice. As a child advocacy organization, we always stop and ask ourselves, is this good for kids? In this case, there is no question that raising the minimum wage is good for Maine children and families.
We know that family income matters for children. Research shows that family incomes play a significant role in the overall health and well-being of the child. When family incomes improve, child health, economic and educational outcomes also improve, and this is evident in the latest Maine poverty data.
The latest numbers show that the number of children living in poverty has declined slightly, and at the same time median family incomes increased, contributing to this good news. This means fewer children are worrying about where they will sleep and when they will eat and can instead focus on playing, learning and growing – they can focus on being a kid.
However, over 43,000 Maine children still live in poverty. Imagine how many more children we could lift out of poverty if their parents were paid fairly. With stable, good-paying jobs and supports, Maine children and families truly have a chance to succeed.
At $7.50 an hour, Maine’s minimum wage is just not a family sustaining wage. Mainers work extremely hard and a full-time job should be more than enough to make ends meet, but with the current minimum wage this is difficult. Basic essentials like food, housing and healthcare have increased dramatically over the years and it only makes sense that the minimum wage increases as well. How can we expect working parents to put food on the table, heat their homes and put a roof over their child’s head if we don’t pay them fairly? Maine parents deserve a modest raise.
Raising Maine’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 will benefit more than 60,000 Maine children by giving their parents a much needed raise. Economic pressures on families have changed, with all adults in the household needing to work, and our minimum wage should reflect this change.
Fortunately, good child policy is good economic policy. Not only will raising the minimum wage invest in the future of state through our children, but we can also reap the benefits now. When we pay families enough so that they can afford basic essentials, they put more money into the economy, supporting local businesses and programs. We all benefit.
The demands of living in today’s economy requires us to think in innovative ways about how to best maintain and support Maine’s quality of live. Building a stronger Maine begins with supporting our children and families. Our children must get what they need today to become the adults who will strengthen our communities and build our economy. It is up to us to make sure that working families can get the resources they need and this starts with full-time jobs that pay a fair wage.