AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee endorsed an amended proposal from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would improve access to quality, affordable child care in a party-line vote on Thursday. 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 the child care affordability program to include more working families.
“Maine’s child care crisis demands a comprehensive response – one that supports child care professionals and working-class families. The amended proposal includes provisions to help child care teachers remain in the industry they love while also making child care more affordable for working-class families. It reflects what we are hearing from folks on the ground experiencing the crisis – the parents, providers, and experts,” said President Jackson. “I’m so grateful to the members of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee who supported my amendment. We need to recognize the severity of this crisis and pass a bill that doesn’t leave child care workers or working-class families behind.”
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 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 inability to afford child care makes it difficult for parents to fully participate in the workforce, exacerbating existing workforce shortages.
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. At the same time, there are 350 fewer licensed child care providers operating in Maine today than a decade ago. The proposals are 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 before the full Legislature for additional votes.