Building a Stronger Maine Economy with Good-paying Jobs Demands that Workers Have Access to Education

As newly released census data confirm that Maine families continue to find livable wage jobs elusive, timely new report offers insight and recommendations
Augusta, Maine (Friday, December 17, 2010)—The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) today released “When Hard Work Isn’t Enough ,” the latest edition in the long running MECEP Choices series which published its first report in 1994.  Written by former MECEP board member Frank O’Hara, Vice President of Planning Decisions, and MECEP Policy Analyst Connie Zhu, the report is a preview of findings from a forthcoming full length MECEP study on building a future for Maine’s working families.

“Building a future Maine economy with good-paying jobs demands that workers have access to the educational tools they need for these jobs,” Zhu and O’Hara write.  “There is no more effective way to reward our famed work ethic.  To achieve this goal, we need more funding to make higher education affordable to more Maine people; we need innovation and collaboration from educational institutions to make higher education a reality for working adults; and we need continued investment in public infrastructure and coordinated job development to bring quality jobs to Maine.”

The MECEP report comes as newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed this week that Mainers’ median incomes continue to trail their New England neighbors and much of the nation. 

“The median household income in Maine was $46,541 during the latter half of the decade,” today’s Bangor Daily News reports. “That is roughly $4,700 less than Vermonters, who ranked just above Maine among New England states, and $21,180 less than the region’s highest earners, those living in Connecticut.”

MECEP notes that one-in-four Maine families “are trapped in low wage jobs.”

“In 2008, 9,635 working families in Maine lived under the federal poverty line, about $21,724 for a family of four.  More alarmingly, 37,830 working families—more than one in every four families—did not earn enough money to cover their basic needs, measured at 200% of the poverty level, $43,448 for a family of four,” the MECEP report adds.  “Clearly, these hard working families deserve better economic opportunities. They need more support and tools to be able to grow and thrive in the future economy.”

MECEP is Maine’s leading non-profit research and policy development organization.  “When Hard Work Isn’t Enough ” is available online.