LD 1475: An Act to Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families Today

Senator Brakey, Representative Hymanson and Members of the Committee:

My name is Carie Johnsen. I am a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Augusta and a founding member of the Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network. I am here today to speak in support of LD 1475.

I live in downtown Augusta and serve one of the center city churches. Every day I encounter the working poor of this city who are striving to make ends meet in an economy where the cost of living is rising faster than their daily income. Every day I bear witness to effects of deep poverty on our citizens, our children, and youth. Homelessness, hunger, addiction, insufficient resources to heat homes, unreliable transportation, and lack of access to affordable childcare create insurmountable barriers for a family seeking to improve their living situation.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and I call upon each of you to do the same. Instead of punishing and shaming those seeking help, I call upon our government to create effective paths out of poverty.

Just this morning the leaders of the Capital Area Multi-faith Association met with city officials to discuss the future of community and faith-based supports to the fore mentioned families. This faith community works tirelessly to support the programs like the Augusta Food Bank and Warming Shelter. Programs like the essentials pantry that provides toothpaste, deodorant, famine hygiene products, laundry detergent, toilet paper, shampoo, and body soap without question. Programs like the Angel Food Supper where over 150 meals are served every Saturday night to a gathered community of people who are hungry, homeless, and lonely.

Where the state fails to live up the task of helping individuals and families to thrive, the local faith community fills in the ever-widening gap with housing and heating assistance to families living on the brink. We all know filling in the gap is not an effective means of helping our citizens, our families, our children and youth to climb out of poverty, create stability, and thrive.

Today I call upon each of you to narrow that gap by voting ought to pass on LD 1475, reducing childhood poverty and improving outcomes for families, is the right thing to do.