Economic Justice: Poverty
Moving Maine Forward
In the first half of 2011, Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP) and MCC produced a resource for congregations to learn more of the facts of Maine's public assistance programs for Mainers in need. MEJP also provided additional information on families that rely on Maine's safety net programs.
In this time of shared hardship it seems increasingly popular to target those least responsible for our economic circumstances and most susceptible to the dangers of economic instability. We believe that in just such a time as this the church is called to speak out to protect the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our community.
That’s why we hope you will share this information with members of your congregation, so that their understanding of our shared vision for economic justice can be informed by both our faith values and the facts of the very real issues of poverty in Maine.
Moving Maine Forward Tri-fold Pamphlet
Moving Maine Forward Half-page bulletin insert
For more detailed information and links to statistical sources, see the full report of MEJP's 2010 survey of families on TANF titled Families in Focus:
Families in Focus Key Findings
Families in Focus Full Report
Overview of Maine's Safety Net Programs
General Assistance Resource Cards
Navigating the General Assistance Program in Maine can be a challenge for anyone. The Maine Council of Churches, in collaboration with Maine Equal Justice Partners, created these resource cards for pastors and congregations who want to help those in need by providing clear information and guidance.
This PDF file of 3 cards per page is designed to allow churches to reproduce these double-sided cards to easily distribute this information to members of the community.
We can end homelessness for women in Maine now.
Preble Street has 3 new video public service announcements launching the Home for Good campaign, featuring Maine women -- including MCC Executive Director, Jill Job Saxby. Join us in spreading this message of hope for women. Share the link with others and learn more about ending homelessness in Maine at www.preblestreet.org.
Hear and Respond Project
Throughout 2009 MCC's Dolores Vail gathered clergy, outreach workers, church members, and volunteers in communities across Maine to hear what programs and strategies they are using to assist those in greatest need in their communities. Dolores has collected her findings into the following summary of responses to the increasing needs.
Farmington Area Ecumenical Association: The Warming Center
Collaboration is the key to success! The Henderson Memorial Baptist Church was the leader in establishing the warming center, open two days a week – Tuesday and Thursday- from 10 -4 to any in the community who wanted to come, enjoy fellowship and a meal and keep warm. The Seniors Plus, the Area Agency on Aging provided meals for the group. The Baptist Church opened the center by hosting in January, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church hosted in February, And Old South Congregational Church hosted in March. It became an important opportunity for people to get out in winter, interact with others, get a meal, and stay warm. Other agencies came forth with games, puzzles, and materials for crafts. Volunteers stepped forth to help, join and get to know others in their community, and provide help with crafts. For more information contact Rev. Susan Crane at Henerson Memorial Baptist Church: 778-2163 or email@example.com.
For communities considering this model, a helpful document was compiled by the United Way of the Tri-Valley area: "So. . .You Might Want to Start a Warming Center in Your Community."
- Bath UCC: The Good Samaritan Mission Committee
The Good Samaritan Mission Committee took over the Pastors Discretionary Fund a few years ago. The Committee is organized into two person groups (3) who take turns taking calls that come into the church asking for help. They talk to the individual on the phone to find out what the need is and often direct them to other services such as the food pantry or clothes closet. In case more help is needed they meet with the person of persons to establish the need and to explore what is needed. They find that with two persons listening it works best because it gives two opinions. This has worked very well with a good success rate. They have found that donations are forthcoming when it looks like there is the need for more. In the years since the Committee was established the donations have gone from about $1200 to $1500 to $12 – $15,000. They need more volunteers to help reduce the work load of the three groups and are reaching out to the wider community to recruit possible volunteers.
Volunteers from the area churches were responsible for raising $50,000 for the fuel fund which is administered by the Belfast United Methodist Church. The volunteers figured out how much they would need based on the previous year’s request and a projection of greater need for the following year and came up with the figure of more than $40,000. A special event including community, businesses, and church involvement raised $6000. Churches, groups, and individuals raised funds as well. Communities were also asked to contribute in proportion to the help they received.
· York Food Pantry/ Falmouth Food Pantry
As Falmouth was preparing for opening the first formal food pantry, they contacted the town who had just vacated the public service portion or town hall in favor of the new police station and new facilities for the Fire Department. Their request was to have a portion set aside for a new food pantry. The town agreed also offered to include the pantry on their insurance. Falmouth was up and running as boy scouts, girl scouts, the towns churches, Lions Club and many individuals volunteered to help out. The directors are very good at keeping the needs of the pantry before the community and the community responds very well. As they were preparing to take over the space, directors of the pantry met with people who have been running a pantry for quite a few years in York. York was generous in sharing their rules, regulations, and experience with Falmouth which gave them a big boost in setting up the new pantry in Falmouth.
- Saco/Biddeford Ministers Association: Breakfast Meetings Twice a Month, Biddeford Resource Group, Window Insulation
The area ministers meet the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month with no particular agenda but to keep in touch with one another and to share events at their churches. They meet at different restaurants in their communities at 7:30 a.m. One of the ministers contacts the group to send emailsinforming them where the group will be meeting.
The Biddeford Resource Group is made up of churches, those who provide services such as counseling, help for the elderly, Family assistance ,etc. It is a good way to meet and get to know the people involved and the services they provide and saves time for busy ministers.
Window insulation is a program promoted by the Unitarian Universalist Church in Saco. One person makes the framework and the rest is put together by volunteers. They need more who can do the frameworks in order to expand their project to more in the community. These pieces are made to fit inside window openings and help to keep the cold air out in the winter.
Free Tax Prep Help and the Earned Income Tax Credit
From our friends at Coastal Enterprises, Inc:
Several coalitions provide free tax preparation services to eligible taxpayers between late January and mid-March. This service may be useful to you or someone you know, including family, friends, or employees.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) serves to lessen the tax burden for low-income workers and their families and provides an income supplement for low-wage workers. Created in the 1970s, the EITC is widely viewed as the tool that has been most effective at moving working families out of poverty in
- In 2006, the EITC returned an estimated $40 billion to low-income tax filers, with some families receiving as much as $4,400.
- In all, the EITC lifted 5 million Americans above the poverty line.
alone in 2007, the EITC coalitions helped 2,252 taxpayers receive Federal and State tax refunds totaling $3.7 million.
The bottom line is that the EITC rewards work and by putting money in the hands of taxpayers and back into our communities.
If you would like to learn more about the EITC, the IRS has a helpful information page at www.irs.gov/individuals/index.html. When you get to that website, click on "It's easier than ever to find out if you qualify for the EITC."
If you or someone you know might be eligible for the EITC, dial "2-1-1" and ask for information on free tax preparation services in the area. The 2-1-1 line is a service established by the
in collaboration with Ingraham to create an efficient and effective response to the growing complexities and needs in health, social, economic, and human services.
There are EITC coalitions in the Midcoast, Lewiston-Auburn,
. Most of these provide ongoing tax preparation services from late January until mid-March. Some of the coalitions also provide information on asset development opportunities such as homeownership, starting a business, and many other opportunities.