Governor Mills Announces $3.5 Million in Lifeline Loans to Cover the Property Tax Bills of Older or Disabled Maine People
As increasing home values burden Maine people on fixed incomes, an initiative of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan will help pay property tax bills for Maine seniors and those who are permanently disabled
Augusta, ME (STL.News) Governor Janet Mills announced that her Administration is launching the State Property Tax Deferral Program, a lifeline loan program through the Governor’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan that can cover the annual property tax bills of eligible Maine people who are ages 65 and older or are permanently disabled and who cannot afford to pay them on their own. The loan program will allow Maine’s most vulnerable community members to age in place and ensure that property taxes are still delivered to municipalities. The program requires repayment of the loan once the property is sold or becomes part of an estate.
The State Property Tax Deferral Program is modeled on a similar expired program from the 1990s, this time funded by $3.5 million from Federal American Rescue Plan through the Governor’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. It complements an additional Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan investment of $60 million to build more housing for Maine people. Together, these Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan initiatives can help address Maine’s surging real estate market, which is making housing more difficult to afford and has threatened to displace renters, working class families, older Mainers, and those who are permanently disabled from stable housing opportunities.
“Older Mainers and those with disabilities deserve to live and age in the comfort of their homes without worrying they’ll lose them because they can’t afford the property taxes,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This program through my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan provides folks with the peace of mind that they can age safely and securely in their homes. My Administration will continue to work with the Legislature to address property taxes, increase the availability of housing, and ensure that all Maine people, regardless of age or income, are able to have a safe, stable place to call home in our state.”
“The State Property Tax Deferral Program can help those who are older or disabled with no other option for paying their property taxes, allowing folks to remain at home, without hamstringing local budgets,” said Kirsten Figueroa, Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. “We are working with Maine municipalities to process applications and payments for the current tax year.”
“I hear from so many people in Maine who tell me their property taxes are just too high, and getting higher. This problem is particularly difficult for retired and disabled Mainers who are on fixed incomes. That’s why I first sponsored a bill to bring back the Property Tax Deferral Program years ago, in the 128th Legislature,” said Senator Donna Bailey. “After years of fighting for this program and the relief it will bring to thousands of Maine people, I was proud to see it finally become law. For as long as I’m in the State House, I’ll keep fighting for measures that will provide real relief for real people.”
“While everyone wants to age in their homes for as long as possible, too many older Mainers on fixed incomes have to leave their homes because they cannot afford the property taxes. The State Property Tax Deferral Program crafts an ingenious solution to this problem,” said Jess Maurer, Executive Director of the Maine Council on Aging. “Governor Mills and the Legislature, especially sponsor Senator Donna Bailey, are to be commended for creating a self-sustaining program that works for everyone, especially older Mainers who get to stay in their homes.”
“Municipal leaders commend Governor Mills and members of the Legislature for reinstating Maine’s Property Tax Deferral Program. This program will help qualifying residents remain in their homes, without shifting additional burdens onto the property taxpayers,” said James Bennett, President of the Maine Municipal Association and Biddeford City Manager. “The adoption of this program, coupled with State funding for 55 percent of K-12 education expenses, returning municipal revenue sharing distributions to 5 percent of State sales and income tax revenue, as well as incrementally increasing State reimbursement under the Homestead Exemption program underscores the State’s commitment to reducing property taxpayer burden. This is a much needed and welcomed investment in Maine’s communities.”
The Governor has also increased housing opportunities for older Mainers, signing in 2019 a $15 million voter-approved senior housing bond held up by her predecessor. The Governor also signed into law the single largest state investment in housing in Maine’s history and recently broke ground on a new, major housing project resulting from that law.
The State Property Tax Deferral Program builds on this work by paying property tax bills to Maine municipalities for any owner-occupied, primary residence so long as the owner is aged 65 or older and/or permanently disabled, earns less than $40,000 per year, and has liquid assets below $50,000 (or below $75,000 if applying jointly). Full eligibility criteria and applications may be obtained via Maine Revenue Services.
Property owners should submit applications to the municipality where they live. Municipalities will work directly with Maine Revenue Services, a division of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, to process the applications and related payments.
In order to sustain the State Property Tax Deferral Program indefinitely, beyond the original allocation of $3.5 million in Federal funds, any property tax bills covered by the Program will be repaid when the property is sold or becomes part of an estate.
In addition to the State Property Tax Deferral Program within the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, the Mills Administration has continually provided tax relief to Maine people by:
- Making an historic investment in Maine public schools, meeting the State’s obligation to pay 55 percent of the cost of K-12 education for the first time in Maine history;
- Increasing direct tax relief for 83,000 low-income and middle-income people who were hard hit by the pandemic;
- Fully restoring revenue sharing with municipalities to five percent;
- Launching and administering the Local Fiscal Recovery Program, which has infused more than $59 million into local governments within more than 461 Maine communities;
- Preserving the power of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides tax relief to middle and low-income Maine families with children;
- Exempting up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits from income tax for tax year 2020; and
- Returning more than $149 million in tax receipts directly to Maine families in 2021.
The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to achieve three goals: immediate economic recovery from the pandemic; long-term economic growth for Maine; and infrastructure revitalization.
It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people and strengthen the economy.
Funding for the Jobs Plan is through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to Maine in 2021.
Coordination of the Jobs Plan is led by the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future, through a new Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan Office.