Jackson bill to support child care providers clears committee with unanimous support

President Jackson photographed with child care providers at Youth and Family Outreach in Portland

AUGUSTA – Last week, the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved Legislation from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to support child care providers. The amended proposal, LD 2199, “An Act to Ensure Subsidy Reimbursements and Emergency Financial Assistance for Certain Child Care Providers” would improve the child care affordability program to align payment practices with industry standards.

“Child care is essential for working families, employers and our economy. Yet, most facilities are on the brink of closing. As a state, we cannot expect child care providers to care for children through the subsidy program if payment practices don’t align with industry standards,” said President Jackson. “This bill makes long overdue changes to the Child Care Assistance Program reimbursing providers based on enrollment not attendance. It will make it easier for families who qualify for assistance to actually find a provider who can afford to care for their kids. It’s a win-win.”

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. 

“When subsidy payments do not reflect the generally accepted payment practices of the field, families, providers, and children all suffer. All private pay families are expected to pay for their enrollment to hold their spot, regardless of whether the child attends or is absent,” said Hannah Marshall, Director of Windham and Raymond School Age Child Care, in written testimony. “Programs have to be able to provide consistent hours to staff in order to maintain an already precarious steam of employees. When subsidy reimbursement is tethered to the hours the child attends, programs lose out on the cost of care, because we still are paying staff.” 

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.

“If child care fails, families cannot work and businesses cannot stay open,” said Sue Powers, Maine Community Action Partnership, in written testimony. “Support of this legislation is support to a child care system that is critical to the economic stability of our communities.”  

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. 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.” 

LD 2199 will now go before the full Legislature for additional votes.

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