Governor Janet Mills signed into law LD 1712, a bill that will expand access to quality, affordable child care in Maine. The new law seeks to replicate a successful program in Somerset County modeled after the successful Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership. Under the law, Maine could create up to 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.
The law builds on the Mills Administration’s ongoing work to expand affordable child care options in Maine. Through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, Governor Mills has proposed investing $20 million to help Maine communities renovate, expand, or build new child care facilities and expand early childhood education programs. The Administration has also put forward a historic Child Care Plan for Maine 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. In the coming days, the Mills Administration will work with Legislative leaders to ensure sufficient funding for the successful implementation of LD 1712, the child care portion of the Maine Jobs and Recovery Act, and the Child Care Plan for Maine.
Maine is expected to receive an additional nearly $120 million in Federal funds through the American Rescue Plan for child care, as part of what the White House describes as the single biggest national investment in child care since World War II. This investment, combined with another estimated $8.4 million Maine expects to receive through an increase in Federal block grant funding, totals nearly $130 million that Maine will use to support one of the goals of the Children’s Cabinet: increasing access to high-quality child care and expanding Maine’s child care workforce.
These investments build on the Mills Administration’s efforts to support Maine families’ access to child care before and during the pandemic, 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.