Maine’s economic policies are leaving women behind

Tens of thousands of Maine women are mired in poverty, and even more struggle to make ends meet in low-wage jobs. But instead of providing them with tools that will enable them to climb out of poverty, Maine policymakers have cut some much-needed supports for these women and their families while failing to take advantage of others. That adds up to a self-inflicted wound for our entire economy.

Over 14 percent of Maine women live in poverty, more than in any other New England state. Maine also has the highest rate in the region of women struggling in low-wage jobs that keep them just above poverty.

Clearly, affordable child care is crucial to the 40 percent of Maine families with women as the primary breadwinners. But in recent years, Maine policymakers have cut child care assistance, especially for low-income Mainers pursuing college degrees or specialized job training.

This has created additional obstacles women must overcome as they aspire to better jobs and a better life for themselves and their families. For example, over half of student parents spend at least 30 hours per week caring for their children. Twenty-three percent of Maine residents without a college degree said that raising children prevented them from pursuing a degree.

Maine lawmakers may think they’re saving money by cutting child care assistance for students, but it will only hurt our economy in the long run. More and more employers need workers with a college degree or other specialized training, and those credentials are fast becoming the only sure tickets to the middle class for American workers.

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