Patchwork of Paychecks: Maine

There are not enough jobs to go around in Maine. There are 67,000 job seekers, but only about 17,000 total job openings. Of those, only 45 percent pay a living wage for a single adult and only 14 percent pay enough for a single adult with two children to make ends meet. This means there are nine job seekers for every job opening that pays a living wage for a single adult and 28 job seekers for every job opening that pays a living wage for a single adult with two children.

Additionally, women in Maine are more likely to work part-time than are men. While only 21 percent of male workers reported working part-time, nearly 42 percent of female workers reported working fewer than 40 hours per week.

Testimonial: PHILEMON DUSHIMIRE | WESTBROOK, MAINE

I came to Maine five years ago after fleeing from my native country of Burundi in Africa, where I worked as a judge for the local government. Even though I have a law degree from my home country, I had to start over in Maine. I now work two jobs as a direct support professional for mentally challenged individuals.

I enjoy the help I provide to my clients in both jobs and it is rewarding to be able to help improve someone’s life. The work is not without some risk and frustration, however, since there are times when clients are having a tough day and could harm themself or me.

In my first job I work the overnight shift making $10 an hour. I have to commute for my work so I need a car. Loan payments on the car, along with rent, add up quickly. Even though my pay is higher than minimum wage, it’s not a living wage and I had to take my second job to help cover basic expenses.

I now work 80 hours a week, but even then it sometimes feels hard to keep my head above water. Sometimes I can work overtime and get paid for it, but it’s not guaranteed.

Devoting so much time to my work has meant that other important things have fallen to the wayside. I want to continue my education in Maine so that I can return to the kind of work that I did in my home country, but it is difficult to find extra time to devote to studies. At this point in my life I can’t make ends meet working only one job. If I could afford to work one job, my life would change considerably. I would have time to continue my education and plan for other long term projects in my life.

I believe that Maine has opened the door to many opportunities for me, but I feel that I cannot take advantage of them when I am putting in so much time working and living paycheck to paycheck.

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