AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Justin Chenette, D-Saco, would promote the Opportunity Maine program by adding a full time staffer to the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME).
The bill - LD 1171, “An Act To Sustain and Attract Skilled Workers to Maine by Improving the Job Creation Through Educational Opportunity Program” - received a public hearing Tuesday before the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.
The Educational Opportunity Tax Credit, or EOTC, better known as Opportunity Maine, allows Maine residents with a bachelor’s degree to receive up to $4,000 in tax credits or anyone with an associate’s degree to receive up to $800 tax credits if as long as that person stays in Maine or returns to Maine to live and work after college.
Despite the immense benefit provided by the credit, only a fraction of eligible graduates apply for it when they fill out their tax returns, indicating a lack of awareness for the EOTC.
Sen. Chenette’s bill adds a full-time staffer within FAME to promote the Opportunity Maine program and communicate with high school guidance counselors, college career counseling services staff, and Maine Revenue Services to reach the targeted demographic that would benefit most from the tax credit program. It also allocates $30,000 for marketing of the program.
“Maine students are fourteenth highest in the country in terms of student debt levels, showing there is a clear need for debt relief for young people in our state,” said Sen. Chenette. “The problem is, too few students in Maine are aware of the credit. This bill aims to solve the problem and promote awareness for the program.”
Bill Norbert, the Governmental Affairs and Communications Manager at FAME, spoke in favor of Chenette’s proposal at the public hearing.
“We believe the EOTC is an underutilized tool for Maine students and companies in helping to address student debt and workforce development needs,” said Norbert. “FAME helps to market the tax credit itself and also contracts annually with a nonprofit to help the program.”
The bill’s cosponsor, Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow, also spoke in favor of the proposal.
LD 1171 faces further action in the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee and votes in the House and Senate.