As a mother and parent of a high school student, I know the last couple years have been an extraordinarily difficult time for families. Between our kids being forced to learn from home, the struggle to find child care, trying to keep your family healthy amid a pandemic and now a shortage of baby formula, there's no lack of challenges. My colleagues and I know this, and this year, we set out to help by passing new measures to support our hardworking Maine families.
One important step we took that I'm incredibly proud of was expanding the Children's Health Insurance Plan, also known as CHIP. This program provides health insurance for Maine children whose family may be over the income limit to qualify for MaineCare, but at the same time can't afford coverage on the health insurance marketplace. As a nurse, I've seen firsthand how valuable this program is in making sure kids can see a doctor, stay healthy and set themselves up for a long life. Lawmakers saw the great impact too, 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 take a huge burden off parents who have struggled to afford care for their children.
Inflation and rising costs have also had a big impact on families. To help combat this, we expanded the Maine Earned Income Tax Credit, which is targeted toward helping lower- and middle-income families. In the supplemental budget, we increased the value of the credit by roughly $400, bringing the benefit per family to an average of $764 per year. I know this expanded credit will go a long way in helping put 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. Though the issue may not be discussed in public all that often, nearly 1 in 8 couples face infertility issues. Unfortunately, these treatments can be incredibly costly, and currently, many insurers don't cover them. Those looking to begin a family shouldn't be penalized for something they can't control. Not only is this wrong, but Maine is also losing couples who are moving to states that do require coverage for fertility treatments. Making sure Mainers can get any necessary treatment means more folks will be able to start and raise a family right here at home like they want to do. We're also working toward establishing a paid family and medical leave program here in Maine, so new parents can take paid time off after having a child, or folks can get time off for other family emergencies. This year, we funded a new study that will tell us the best way to proceed with making the program a reality.
Looking back, I'm proud of the steps legislators took to support Maine families across the state. Things aren't easy these days, but we are making an effort to ensure children and families can lead happy, healthy lives.
You can always send me an email at [email protected] or call my office at (207) 287-1515. Follow my Facebook page for updates at Facebook.com/SenatorStacyBrenner.