Poverty Facts

Poverty in Maine is higher today than in the deepest part of the last recession in 2001.

  • One in every 8 Maine people lives below the “official” poverty line – $17,600 for a family of 3.
  • Most now agree that nearly double that amount is needed to make ends meet.
  • By this measure, 1 in 3 Maine people don’t have sufficient income to meet basic needs.
  • Nearly 13% of Maine families don’t always have enough food to fully meet their family’s basic needs.
  • Maine has among the highest rates of food insecurity in the nation, ranking 11th highest.
  • Food insecurity in Maine is 43% higher than the average of other New England states.
  • Food Stamp participation has increased by nearly 30% between July 2003 and 2008.

Wages and benefits are falling far behind what is needed to make ends meet.

  • Workers in the bottom 30% of wage-earners saw a 1% decline in real wages between 2001 and 2007.
  • At the same time prices for basic necessities like heating fuel, food and gasoline have skyrocketed.
  • Maine’s basic Temporary Assistant for Needy Families  benefit for a family of 3 is only $485 a month, for many this is the only cash income they receive.
  • This basic benefit has not increased since 2001, leaving nearly 24,000 children in very precarious living situations.

The combination of falling incomes and skyrocketing costs means thousands of Maine people cannot make ends meet.

  • Since 2001 the cost of heating our homes has nearly tripled.
  • 80% of Maine families depend on oil to stay warm.
  • Gasoline prices have more than doubled since 2001.
  • The average driver is paying $25 more to fill the tank than they were in 2001.
  • The cost of food in the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan (the national standard for a nutritious low-cost diet) has climbed nearly 11% in the last year.
  • A family of 4 must spend the equivalent of an extra full day’s work per month at minimum wage to buy the same amount of food as it did last year.
  • More and more electric utility customers are having trouble paying their bills.
  • Between March 2006 and 2008, overdue bills increased by:
    • 74% among Maine Public Service (MPS) customers;
    • 52% for Central Maine Power (CMP) customers;
    • 43% for Bangor Hydro Electric (BHE) customers.
  • Nearly 20% more CMP customers actually lost service this year than in 2006.
  • Maine’s unemployment rate is 15% higher than last year.
  • A dramatic 43% more workers run out of unemployment benefits before they can find new work.