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Governor Mills Announces $5.5 Million Investment in Latest Round of Support for Maine Child Care Providers

American Rescue Plan Act funds build on historic investments to strengthen child care for working families

Governor Janet Mills announced today that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will award nearly $5.5 million to current and new Maine child care providers in the latest round of investments her administration is making to expand the availability of affordable, high-quality child care for Maine’s working families. 

These new grants build on the Governor's work to provide permanent $200 monthly salary supplements for child care workers and a $15 million investment from her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to support the construction and expansion of child care programs. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Mills Administration has provided more than $100 million in funding for child care, helping Maine providers stay open and increase pay for staff, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Governor Mills will highlight the latest round of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) support during a visit today to Educare Central Maine in Waterville, a nationally recognized child care and preschool center, and the Boys & Girls Clubs & YMCA of Greater Waterville, the state’s largest licensed child care center for school-aged children.

“Parents need high quality affordable child care in order to go to work and kids need a safe place to learn and grow during the day,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This is another important step forward in our effort to expand child care options for working Maine families. We’re focused on recruiting more child care workers, building more child care facilities, and making child care more affordable so that every parent can access quality care for their kids.  My administration will continue to work to strengthen the child care system that our working families rely on.”

“Access to affordable, high-quality child care helps children grow and thrive,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “The Governor’s historic investments in child care are helping providers recruit and retain staff, maintain and expand capacity, and provide quality care to Maine children. Continuing this support is part of our broader plan to chart a sustainable recovery from the pandemic and brighter future for Maine’s child care system.”

“Affordable childcare is essential for workforce development.  In order to get people back to work they need to have reliable, safe and fun childcare avenues for their children,” said Ken Walsh, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA of Greater Waterville. “These funding opportunities are critical for our organization to continue to provide services to our greater community like we have for the past 98 years. Mentors are essential for youth development. The salary supplements help us attract the right staff members for our kids.  We are grateful for these initiatives that truly make a difference in our communities and help makes Maine a desirable place to live.”

"Early care and education professionals are the workforce behind Maine’s workforce,” said Tracye Fortin, KVCAP COO, Educare Central Maine Executive Director. “The Mills Administration’s continued investment recognizes that high-quality early care and education are key to economic development. Financial supplements, start-up supports, and professional development for career pathways help children, families, businesses and communities to thrive. I am excited for continued strategies to attract and retain early childhood educators for all children, especially infants and toddlers.”

DHHS will use the nearly $5.5 million in federal funding to:

  • Further incentivize providers to offer infant care by increasing an existing stipend from $100 to $150 per infant per week. Since DHHS implemented the $100 stipend in July 2020, the number of infants receiving care with this support has risen from 107 to 252 statewide.
  • Attract new child care providers by offering a one-time $10,000 stipend to child care centers newly licensed between October 1, 2022 and September 30, 2023. This builds on stipends DHHS has already made available for new family child care and recreational programs that become licensed as child care providers.
  • Incentivize child care providers to serve lower-income families by awarding $500 for each child newly served through the Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP). CCSP helps eligible families to pay for child care so parents can work, go to school, or participate in a job training program. DHHS has further helped low-income parents who receive subsidies by waiving their contribution to child care fees through September 30, 2023, saving over 1,500 families with over 2,500 children up to $180 per week.
  • Encourage child care providers to participate in Maine’s Early Childhood Consultation Partnership, an evidence-based program that offers support and training to child care and early education providers to help them meet the social and emotional needs of infants and children up to age 8. DHHS will provide a one-time stipend of $5,000 to child care providers that participate in the program, with at least $1,500 going directly to staff who complete the training program.

Today’s grants come from the federal ARPA’s supplemental Child Care and Development Fund Discretionary Funds. As previously announced, DHHS is distributing another $13.6 million from these funds to help eligible child care providers cover a variety of costs related to COVID-19 and recovery as other pandemic-related support concludes. For the months of October 2022 through January 2023, child care programs are eligible to receive $50 per slot based on licensed capacity. From February 2023 through May 2023, child care programs will be eligible to receive $25 per slot based on licensed capacity. This follows the distribution of over $73 million in COVID-19 Child Care Stabilization Grants from October 2021 to September 2022 that helped Maine child care providers increase pay for staff and cover costs related to COVID-19.

The Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) is additionally providing $200 permanent monthly salary supplements for child care workers. Governor Mills supported and signed into law more than $12 million in ongoing state General Fund dollars to pay these salary supplements for early childhood educators providing direct care, strengthening the early care and education system across Maine.

To support Maine’s child care infrastructure, DHHS in August announced the full availability of up to $15 million in grants through the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to support the construction and expansion of child care programs. The goal of this “bricks and mortar” support from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan is to add 4,700 child care slots across Maine, especially in rural areas and for infants.

In all, the Mills Administration’s funding for child care from March 2020 to the present totals more than $100 million, representing an unprecedented investment to increase access to high-quality care and support for Maine’s child care workforce in line with OCFS’ Child Care Plan for Maine. As a result of these investments, child care providers have been able to maintain, and even build, capacity despite the pandemic – from 47,819 licensed slots in February 2020 to 48,294 licensed slots in September 2022.