President Jackson introduces bill to support child care providers

AUGUSTA – On Tuesday, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, introduced legislation to support child care providers at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. LD 2199, “An Act to Ensure Subsidy Reimbursements and Emergency Financial Assistance for Certain Child Care Providers” would improve the child care affordability program and establish an emergency fund to help providers remain open and caring for Maine kids.

“Maine’s child care affordability program only works for families if it works for child care providers, and the current system is not just falling short, it’s forcing providers to choose between closing their doors or not accepting children from working-class families. We must do better,” said President Jackson. “By reimbursing providers based on enrollment, Maine can better support providers that already run on thin margins and ensure that families participating in the subsidy program can find quality care for their kids.”

The Child Care Affordability Program helps eligible working families afford child care by subsidizing a portion or all of the cost of care. Under the current system, the state reimburses providers that care for children through the subsidy program based on attendance. This means child care providers are not reimbursed when those children are sick or have to miss a day of care even though the provider cannot make up the revenue by filling the spot and the expenses remain the same. 

LD 2199 would require the Department of Health and Human Services to reimburse child care providers and accept child care subsidies based on enrollment, not attendance. This change would better reflect the cost of care and align with generally accepted pay practices within child care.

“I lose an incredible amount of income due to CCAP not reimbursing based on enrollment as well as CCAP paying only market rate and not my actual rate. This can account for approximately $85,000 a year. We are a small family business licensed for 49 (plus 12 at another location) that $85,000 could make an incredible difference in our lives and ability to keep accepting an unlimited number of children on CCAP,” said Katie Gilmour of Mrs. Katie’s Laugh & Learn Academy in Houlton in written testimony“It’s truly a passion of mine to accept as many children as possible regardless of who is paying for their childcare. I want children who are subsidy eligible to receive the same amazing care as children whose families can privately pay for their care. We offer an amazing opportunity for education rich child care that we feel is beneficial to any child regardless of income. Unfortunately many programs choose to limit how many children they accept that utilize subsidy programs because of the decrease in pay. In order to continue on this path we need stable funding for child care programs.”

The proposed legislation would also establish an emergency fund to help providers cover unexpected building costs that threaten the viability of a program. 

“Child care providers operate on the edge of financial stability each week, month and year. It is a daily balancing act to break even and be able to pay staff, bills and essentials to operate a safe program for young children. A leaky roof, furnace malfunction or clogged toilet may be just enough to push a provider over the edge with no hope of recovering financially,” said Sue Powers, Maine Community Action Partnership. “If there was a fund for these sudden and unexpected emergencies it may make the difference between a provider staying viable or closing.”

According to the U.S. Treasury, “most for-profit child care facilities operate on razor-thin profit margins that are usually less than 1 percent.” 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. 

LD 2199 will be the subject of additional work sessions in committee.

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