CONTACT: Alison Weiss
Maine Equal Justice
(207) 232-0859 or firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2021
Maine groups and community members share their
“Vision for an Equitable Maine” and coordinate Day of Action to spotlight ways our
“new normal” must be more equitable
AUGUSTA – As Mainers anxiously wait for their vaccinations, and legislators work to craft a state budget to help Maine recover from the consequences of the pandemic, 50 Maine-based organizations have come together to call on policymakers to embrace a “Vision for an Equitable Maine” to help guide and inform policy decisions to help Maine recover from the pandemic — and to come back better than before. The full vision is available at visionforequitablemaine.com/.
Since March of 2020, dozens of Maine-based organizations and hundreds of individuals have contributed their expertise, insights, and perspectives to build a Vision for an Equitable Maine. As the consequences of COVID-19 have unfolded, the effort grew. Many see this moment as an opportunity to set a new path forward believing that our new normal must be more equitable and more just.
The Vision for an Equitable Maine spans agendas and constituencies to look holistically at the system and policy changes needed to address inequities laid bare by COVID-19. The Vision provides a blueprint for the changes that are needed in 13 areas, including racial equity, income equality, healthcare, education, housing, our environment, public safety, democracy reform, and workers’ health and safety.
Safiya Khalid, Community Resource Coordinator at Gateway Community Services Maine, explains, “The pandemic has shown so clearly how inequality hurts us all. We have to really take hold of this opportunity to build a more resilient future where everyone has the chance to reach their full potential.” Safiya further explains that “Gateway strives to make Maine a place where communities are connected and all people thrive. For Maine to recover from the pandemic, we must invest in our communities and ensure that nobody is left behind.”
When explaining why he helped build the Vision, Isreal Mosely, member of the Equal Justice Partner Circle, points to troubling racial disparities and growing income inequality. “Dr. King, speaking on poverty, once said ‘I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.’ Maine held the largest racial disparity for COVID-19 in the nation. 26% of Maine’s homeless population are people of color when they represent less than 2% of the population. There is no denying that our systems need serious restructuring. This will take all kinds of people doing all types of work. This is just the beginning of that work. There’s a whole lot more to be done and we can’t settle for half measures or refuse to do our part.”
Adam Goode, Legislative and Political Director with Maine AFL-CIO, sees this as a pivotal moment to take stock and learn from the pandemic: “Across the state, essential workers have put their health at risk to support the rest of us during the pandemic, often with little to no workplace protections, inadequate benefits, and low wages. These workers have kept the economy and those who can stay home, safe. They also deserve safety: fair working conditions and liveable wages; a strong unemployment insurance system that won’t let them down.” Maine AFL-CIO supports the Vision because, “Peoples’ health and wellbeing goes beyond the workplace – it’s also affordable health care, safe housing, a clean environment, a functioning and healthy democracy, and much more.”
“Our public policies and state budget must be grounded in equity. Everyone in Maine should have access to the health care they need – but too many are going without.” Ann Woloson, Executive Director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care, agreed. “Our policies and state budget must ensure that all Mainers have the resources they need to build their futures and raise the next generation healthier and stronger. Preserving the status quo or tinkering around the edges will not meet the demands of this moment.”
“Deaths of despair have risen during the coronavirus pandemic, and the latest research suggests this increase has been dramatic,” pointed out Malory Shaughnessy, Executive Director of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services. “ We have learned from past experience that any major disruption such as this pandemic will bring a following wave of mental health impacts. Without equitable access to services to meet this growing need, the most vulnerable among us will bear the brunt of these impacts. But if we work to put in place healthy community conditions, good healthcare coverage, and inclusive policies, we can improve mental health and well-being as we come out the other side.”
Any groups that wish to sign on to the Vision for an Equitable Maine can visit https://visionforequitablemaine.com/.
Individuals that wish to sign the petition to Maine policymakers can do so here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/vision-for-an-equitable-maine-2/