RADIO ADDRESS: Taking care of our neighbors this holiday season.
In Maine, we look out for our neighbors. It’s just an important part of who we are. We lend a helping hand when someone on the side of the road has a flat tire. We pitch in to rake the leaves or shovel the driveway of an elderly neighbor. And we are active participants in our communities. So this year, as the snow piles up and we head into the holiday season, let’s take extra care to make sure no Mainer has to go without food, health care or a safe place to live.
Hello, this is Sen. Ben Chipman of Portland, the lead Democrat on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. Thank you for tuning in.
In a perfect world, all Mainers would have their basic needs met. However, the harsh reality is that many of our friends and neighbors are struggling to get by with limited or without certain essentials, such as enough food, clean and safe housing, and basic health care. This is unacceptable. As a state, we can and must do better. This means working together both in our communities and in the legislature to make sure no Mainer has to go without.
Hunger is certainly not something new in Maine. According to the Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine is ranked 9th for food insecurity compared to the rest of the country. This means many individuals and families do not have access to reliable, healthy meals. Even worse, the data reminds us that many of the people struggling are children. An estimated one out of five children don’t have regular access to food. If that’s not a call to action, I don’t know what is. The good news is, we are working to address this issue at the State House by increasing access to school meals among other strategies. But in the meantime, you can reach out to food pantries in your area to see if there is a need for volunteers or food donations.
With the cold winter months upon us, it’s critical that Mainers have a safe, warm and clean place to live. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than 2,000 Mainers go homeless each night. And the number has remained relatively stable over the past decade. While the number of homeless families has decreased, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness has increased. To me, this is a sign that we need to explore new ways to address this issue. As community members, we can reach out to local shelters and service providers to donate high need items like clothing and personal care products. In the Legislature, it’s clear that we need to figure out how to get these Mainers into good-paying, stable jobs so they can lead happy, healthy and secure lives.
Finally, it’s also critical to make sure people are able to go see a doctor, whether it’s just for a checkup or if they are sick. That’s why expanding Medicaid is so important (not to mention it’s what the voters decided over a year ago). It’s a popular program that will cover more Mainers and keep health care clinics open all across the state. The current governor’s actions to delay implementation of the program do a disservice to Maine people and to health care professionals. I’m thrilled that this will be the last holiday season without this program in effect.
After we implement expansion, there will still be tens of thousands of Maine residents without health care. We should not consider our work done until everyone has basic health care coverage.
As we head into the final month of the year, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on how we can all make Maine a better place to live. No Mainer should have to make the difficult choice between feeding their families, paying the rent or going to the doctor. Donating to a local food bank or service provider could make a difference – at least while we wait for our policies to improve. Thank you for keeping the most vulnerable Mainers among us in your hearts and minds this holiday season.
This is Sen. Ben Chipman. Thanks for listening.