AUGUSTA – The Maine Senate unanimously approved a bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash to expand access to quality, affordable child care in Maine.
LD 1712, An Act To Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Success would expand access to quality, affordable child care by investing in child care providers and working with community stakeholders to open slots in existing child care programs through the First 4 ME program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Too many Maine children and families lack access to quality, affordable child care. At the same time, Maine child care providers continue to operate at a loss to care for our kids. The system isn’t working for anyone and it’s only been made worse by the pandemic,” said President Jackson. “LD 1712 recognizes the good work that is already happening in communities by investing in providers and organizations to help them open up child care slots, invest in providers, support parents and improve quality. I’m grateful that we could come together as Democrats, Republicans and Independent to pass this proposal in the Senate. I’m hopeful the House will do the same. ”
The bill seeks to replicate a successful program in Somerset county, modeled after the successful Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership. Under this proposal, Maine could create five additional programs across the state, which would be sponsored by coalitions of stakeholders, providers and other community members within the communities that the projects serve.
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.
2020 was a tough year for child care providers. There were 21 fewer child care centers and 65 fewer family child care programs than the previous year. In a survey, two-thirds of Maine child care providers said they did not get enough financial relief to make ends meet.