State and national children’s advocacy organizations endorsed of a Yes vote on Question 4 at a press conference at the Central Maine YWCA today, highlighting the fact that the parents of 63,000 Maine children will see a raise with passage of the minimum wage increase referendum.
"Maine’s current minimum wage, at $7.50 an hour, is not a family-sustaining wage. We simply must provide working families with the resources that help them support their and their children’s well-being," said Shawn Yardley, a board member of the Maine Children's Alliance. "Voting Yes on Question 4 is good for Maine children and families."
Question 4 seeks to raise the minimum wage to $9 in 2017 and then by a dollar each year until it reaches $12 in 2020. After that, it would increase each year with the cost of living.
"The effects of child poverty are extremely damaging, especially to children’s health, nutrition, education, housing, safety, and future earnings," said MaryLou Beaver, Maine Director of Every Child Matters. "Investing in families who need help with sustaining the basic necessities to grow healthy, productive children is an investment in Maine’s future."
For Melissa Stevens, a single mother from Lewiston, the issue is deeply personal.
"I was in an abusive relationship. I knew I had to leave to protect myself and my children, but I knew that if I left, with the skills and opportunities I had, I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet and support my kids. By leaving abuse, I was throwing them into poverty," said Stevens. "I volunteered to gather signatures for Question 4 because I believe deeply that we need to do better for our kids."
"A quarter of all those benefiting from an increase in the minimum wage are parents," said James Myall, a policy analyst for the Maine Center for Economic Policy. "Research shows that children who grow up in low-income households perform worse in school and have lower earning potential as an adult. In fact, boosting the household income of a low-wage family with young children by $3,000 a year can increase the lifetime earnings of those children by almost 17 percent."
The referendum has already been endorsed by more than 550 small businesses across the state.
"As a childcare provider, I see families every day struggling to make ends meet and see that their children are well cared for while they’re at work," said Melanie Collins, owner of Melanie’s Home Childcare in Falmouth. "If hard working low income Mainers made a wage closer to a livable wage, many more parents would be able to afford high quality childcare, like mine, putting their money back into the local economy. That’s why I support raising the minimum wage."
"So often the weight of these impossible challenges fall to women-single mothers, grandmothers, women with incarcerated partners-all working hard to support their children," said Kathy During-Leighton, executive director of YWCA Central Maine. "If we as employers seek to run businesses and organizations that meet the needs of our employees, clients, and communities, providing a living wage must become a requisite part of doing business in the State of Maine."