AUGUSTA — A bill from Senate President Troy Jackson to improve access to quality, affordable child care cleared the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support in a vote of 33-1 on Tuesday. The proposed legislation — LD 1726, “An Act to Build Maine’s Economy by Supporting Child Care for Working Families” — would double the wage stipend for child care workers and expand child care assistance to more working families.
“Maine’s child care crisis demands a comprehensive response, and LD 1726 delivers. It raises wages for child care workers, makes more families eligible for the child care affordability program and takes steps to transform our entire system,” said President Jackson. “For too long, Maine’s child care system hasn’t worked for anyone. With this strong bipartisan vote in the Senate, Maine is poised to take meaningful action on an issue that has cost our economy more than $400 million. I’m just hopeful the House does the same.”
Under this proposal, the monthly wage stipend for child care workers would increase from $200 to $400. This would help more professionals remain in the industry while also attracting individuals to this field. The current shortage of child care workers has resulted in fewer child care slots in existing facilities across the state. The gap between licensed capacity and enrollment in Maine is 9,442.
The proposal would also expand eligibility for the child care assistance program to families that earn up to 125 percent of the state’s median wage. The lack of child care and the inability to afford child care makes it difficult for parents to fully participate in the workforce, exacerbating existing workforce shortages. A recent report from ReadyNation estimates the that the lack of affordable child care is costing the state $403 million.
Roughly 70 percent of all Maine children under the age of six live in households where all available parents work, and likely need access to some sort of early care and education program. One in five Mainers live in a child care desert, where there are three children for every licensed child care slot. At the same time, there are 350 fewer licensed child care providers operating in Maine today than a decade ago.
The proposal is supported by Right from the Start Coalition, Maine Children’s Alliance, the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children, Family Child Care Association of Maine, Council for a Strong America, Mission Readiness: Maine, Ready Nation: Maine, Maine Community Action Partnership, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Economic Policy Center, Maine Women’s Lobby, Maine Equal Justice Program, the Maine Chamber of Commerce and many more.
LD 1726 will now go to the House for a vote.