WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, spoke to state legislative leaders from across the country about Maine’s investment in quality, affordable child care at the States Convening on Child Care hosted by the White House on Wednesday. The event highlighted successful state legislative efforts to expand access to child care, improve affordability and bolster the “workforce behind the workforce.”
President Jackson participated in a panel alongside California State Senator Nancy Skinner to discuss strategies to build support for and secure historic state investments in child care.
“Maine is in the midst of a child care crisis. Instead of responding with piecemeal solutions, state lawmakers passed a comprehensive budget that raises wages for workers, improves affordability for working parents and makes long overdue changes to data collection and program delivery for providers. These are the type of comprehensive solutions that our families, child care professionals and the economy deserve,” said President Jackson. “It was a real honor to join state legislative leaders at the White House to celebrate this extraordinary investment, and recognize the incredible coalition who helped get this measure across the finish line. But make no mistake, our work is just getting started.”
The new law doubles the monthly salary stipends – increasing the stipend from $200 to $400 – for child care workers. This increase will help qualified professionals afford to remain in the industry while also helping providers retain staff. In Maine, stagnant wages are driving child care workers from the industry. As a result, most child care providers are operating below capacity due to the lack of staff. According to a report from ReadyNation, the current gap between licensed capacity and enrollment across the state is 9,422.
The new law also improves the child care affordability program to make it easier for income-eligible working families to qualify for child care assistance. It expands eligibility for the program from 85 to 125 percent of the state’s median income as of Jan. 1, 2024.
In Maine, 70 percent of all Maine children under the age of six live in families with all available parents in the workforce. These families are likely to need access to quality, affordable child care. More than one in five Maine children live in what’s considered a child care desert. The number is higher in rural parts of the state. This means for every three kids in need of child care, there’s only one available slot.
In recent years, President Jackson has spearheaded critical legislation to make child care more accessible and financially feasible for parents, child care workers and providers.
- In 2021, he introduced legislation to establish the First 4 ME Pilot Program. This pilot program seeks to expand access to quality affordable child care by investing in providers and community stakeholders to open up slots in existing child care programs. The program was modeled after a successful community partnership in Somerset County. Earlier this year, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced that the first three pilot programs will be located in the following counties: Aroostook, Cumberland, and York.
- In 2022, President Jackson secured funding for an initiative he cosponsored with the Hon. Ryan Fecteau to provide monthly $200 stipends for direct early care and education workers, continuing the stipends funded through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
- In recent years, President Jackson has supported funding for preschool expansion grants, child care infrastructure grants and the creation or expansion of early childhood education programs at career and technical education centers.