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Hunger in Maine is a persistent problem with food insecurity in the Pine Tree States significantly higher than the national average. In Maine, 10 percent of people – and, worse, one in six children – face hunger, according to Feeding America.
There is a new way for Mainers to help ease this persistent problem. When filing your taxes this year, you can check a box to donate money to a new hunger relief fund. An emergency food assistance fund is one of eight charitable checkoffs on Schedule CP, which accompanies the state’s standard 1040ME tax form. The form allows a portion – or all – of a person’s tax refund to be directed to one of the funds.
The new checkoff is the result of legislation passed by lawmakers in 2021. Other checkoffs benefit wildlife, children, libraries, pet sterilization and veterans and military families. The minimum contribution is $5. You can also use your state income tax refund to purchase state park passes through Schedule CP.
Money collected through the checkoff will go toward an emergency food assistance program run by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Food pantries and other emergency food providers can apply for assistance from the fund.
“Hunger and food insecurity carries an immense stigma. It’s not something we typically like to talk about,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Maureen Terry, D-Gorham, said in testimony in March 2021.
“To me, this checkoff option is just like making dinner for a sick friend or community member in need of a little extra TLC. It provides a way for more of our neighbors experiencing food insecurity to access meals without all of the added stress and fear often associated with asking for help,” she added. Terry is a chef and former restaurant owner, who now operates a cookie company and serves on the boards of various farmers markets.
“During my 10 years in this office, I have seen increasing levels of poverty and increasing food insecurity. Of course, the pandemic has made such matters even worse,” Alan Casavant, the mayor of Biddeford, said in testimony in support of the bill. “This bill represents a simple way in which individuals can assist those in need. … With so many of our neighbors struggling day to day, it is important, I think, to add new tools to the proverbial tool box to assist them in any way that we can.”
This new tool offers an easy way for Mainers to help their neighbors in need.
Yet, we do agree with Mike Allen of Maine Revenue Services that the proliferation of checkoffs on the tax form can be confusing and not directly related to the payment of state income taxes.
“These contribution checkoffs, as well as the one being proposed, are all worthy,” he said in 2021 testimony neither opposing or supporting the bill. “But there are many other causes that could be included on Maine tax forms, and the income tax return has become increasingly complicated by the inclusion of items that are not required to properly administer the tax laws. A growing number of checkoffs detracts from the primary purpose of the income tax return and makes the tax booklet appear to be even more complex than it already is.”
However, now that these checkoffs exist, it is an easy way to help worthy causes.
So, as you complete your tax forms, don’t forget to fill out Schedule CP if you’d like to donate a portion of your tax refund to the worthy cause of your choice.