Building more affordable housing for Maine seniors and boosting Medicaid reimbursements to home care workers were among several policy ideas rolled out by House Speaker Mark Eves on Wednesday. The proposals are designed as a way to tackle challenges facing the state with the country's oldest population.
The Democrat from North Berwick said the package of bills, which he plans to formally introduce this winter if he's re-elected, is part of a comprehensive effort that Maine must take to ensure more seniors can remain in their homes and communities.
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"It's an enormous need now and it's just going to escalate in future years," said Eves, who has been working with a group of stakeholders on aging issues for the last year.
Officials estimate that one in four Maine residents will be older than 65 by 2030. The median age in Maine of 43.5 is the highest in the country and is six years older than the U.S. median age of 37.4 years.
One of Eves' proposals would create a $65 million bond, which would go toward building 1,000 energy-efficient apartments for seniors across the state.
Housing options for older adults in the state are expensive and scarce, forcing thousands of Mainers to languish on waiting lists, Eves said.
Another measure would increase Medicaid reimbursements to workers who provide care to seniors in their homes, which hasn't happened in almost a decade.
While the demand for such services is expected to spike as Maine's population ages, home care groups are struggling to find people to work in the low-paying field, Eves' office said.
Dave Moreau, of the Direct Care Alliance in Maine, said in a statement that the industry will be in jeopardy if the state does not begin committing resources there.
"By boosting reimbursement rates, the state will stave off a crisis for seniors, while also putting more money in the pockets of workers. It is a win for our seniors, our workers, and our economy," he said.
The final proposal seeks to further increase a property tax credit for some low-and-middle income seniors. Under a bill the Legislature approved last session, the credit will rise from $400 to $900 for Mainers ages 65 and older.
Eves said the amount that the bill will seek to raise the tax credit by hasn't yet been determined.
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