With contributions from Barbara Leonard, Jake Grindle, & Andrea Francis.

Until recently, much of our advocacy funding was focused on a set of organizations working together to expand access to public health insurance programs, including Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace, but after our state’s successful Medicaid expansion and the relative stabilization of the state-level approach to ACA implementation were achieved a couple of years ago, we were able to broaden our focus.

For the last two years, our advocacy funding strategy has not been organized around a specific set of foundation-defined policy goals related to public insurance, or to a specific population, but on bringing together a diverse group of advocates whose work focus on a variety of issue areas and specific populations, and who all have the underlying goal of improving the health of Maine communities. Rather than project grants focused on a narrowly defined set of policy goals, we have been utilizing unrestricted funding combined with technical assistance and regular convening of advocates with the goal of fostering greater capacity and collaboration across the sector of health-focused advocates.

Many of our grantees still focus on maintaining and expanding access to public insurance options, and others are specifically focused on children and families, but since our funding is unrestricted, we aren’t in a position of scrambling to adjust or redirect our strategy as a funder that much right now. We’ve already provided the flexibility in our funding model to allow advocates to adjust to the crisis however they need to.

At the same time, we have taken some additional actions in response the pandemic. We made a series of additional unrestricted grants to some of our key advocacy partners who are ensuring access to essential services, we’ve announced a two-year extension of our current grants to all advocacy grantees to help our partners have some long-term funding stability to factor into their plans, and we’ve transitioned our grantee meetings, workshops, and individualized technical assistance to remote formats.

One of the Health Advocacy program grantees is the Maine Children’s Alliance, which among other roles, is the KIDS COUNT partner in Maine. The Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA) is vital to our continued advocacy efforts for access to quality health care and affordable health care coverage for children and families. Correspondingly, they address intersectional policy issues like early childhood education and family economic and food security that are on the continuum for health and early childhood development.

In collaboration with Maine’s Early Childhood Funders Group (ECFG), MeHAF is able to support project-based initiatives with a focus on home visiting, child care, pre-k, and Head Start-Early Head Start. While not directly related to health care and health insurance, early childhood education programs are an essential part of a child’s well-being and address the social determinants of health. Early childhood development programs serve the same populations as Medicaid. Without the existence of affordable quality health care, CHIP and MaineCare as a foundation, Head Start programs become the “payer of last resort” for health care costs for enrolled children. Ensuring that Medicaid stays strong allows those programs to concentrate their budgets on promoting family well-being.