During a visit to Penobscot Bay YMCA in Rockport this week, Governor Janet Mills highlighted the importance of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan’s investment in accessible, affordable, and high-quality child care and early childhood education opportunities in Maine.
Through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, Governor Mills is proposing investing $20 million to help Maine communities renovate, expand, or build new child care facilities and expand early childhood education programs. This is part of the Governor’s historic Child Care Plan for Maine (PDF) that utilizes approximately $120 million in dedicated child care American Rescue Plan funds, on top of $50 million in previous COVID-19 pandemic assistance, to help Maine’s child care system recover and improve child care quality, accessibility, and affordability over the long-term.
The Governor’s proposal comes as a recent analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center found that close to 5,000 Maine children with working parents, mainly in rural areas, do not live near a child care program. Investment in child care was also a key recommendation of the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-year Economic Development Strategy to attract new families to Maine, allow parents to stay in the workforce, and assist employers in finding skilled workers.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has said that problems securing child care lower worker productivity and cost U.S. employers and working parents billions of dollars annually. Moreover, job stability and family income directly affect a child’s social, physical, and emotional health. Access to high-quality, affordable child care is critical both in the support it provides to working parents and the benefits to children educationally, socially, and emotionally when they have a nurturing and safe environment.
The Governor’s call for more child care and early childhood education opportunities came during a visit to Penobscot Bay YMCA in Rockport. As part of its programming, the Y offers infant care, toddler care, preschool care, and child watch programs that provide kids with a nurturing, safe place to learn foundational skills. Melissa Bellew, the President and CEO of Penobscot Bay YMCA, led Governor Mills and Todd Landry, Director of Maine’s Office of Child and Family Services, on a tour of the facility.
These investments build on the Mills Administration’s goals to quality and access to child care. The Governor is including helping low-income parents who receive subsidies by waiving their contribution to child care fees, distributing $10 million in federal CARES Act funding directly to providers through stipends and grants, and making available $8.4 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to reimburse providers for COVID-19-related business costs. The state additionally maintains the Child Care Choices website, which allows families to locate and connect with providers in their area.
The Governor’s visit to the Penobscot Bay YMCA marks her fourth stop across Maine to highlight the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, her plan to dedicate more than $1 billion in discretionary Federal relief funds allocated to Maine under the American Rescue Plan Act. She has visited Maine Grains in Skowhegan to highlight the plan’s investment in farms and food processors and Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington and Central Maine Community College in Auburn to discuss investments in workforce training programs that will strengthen Maine’s economy.