Awards could support more than 3,500 new child care slots, helping 2,000 parents pursue career and educational opportunities
Governor Janet Mills announced today that $10 million is now available through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to help child care businesses launch or expand. The awards, which utilize Federal funding through the American Rescue Plan, could support more than 3,500 new child care slots across Maine, enabling 2,000 parents to work or take classes while their children receive quality care.
The Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program is part of a $25 million child care initiative in the Governor’s Jobs Plan that includes $15 million for early childhood education. The grant program will help Maine people open child care businesses in their homes, transform existing buildings into quality child care spaces, and construct new child care facilities. Existing child care providers can also use the funding to expand the number of children they serve. Priority is given to sites in rural areas, that care for infants and toddlers, and participate in the child care subsidy program.
An additional $5.4 million for this Program was included in the supplemental budget and will be distributed this fall.
“Maine’s current and future workforce depends on accessible, affordable child care. Not only do working parents need a safe place to send their kids during the day, but research shows that successful early care and education programs can boost academic outcomes and even high school graduation rates,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Through the budget and the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, we are expanding access to child care and giving working families what they need to provide healthy, safe care for their kids that allows them to go to work, bring home a paycheck, and strengthen our economy.”
“These grants will help families across Maine find quality child care in their own communities,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) Director Todd Landry. “Jumpstarting new child care businesses and creating new child care slots will enable parents to take new jobs or pursue their education knowing that their children are safe and well cared for.”
OCFS is administering the Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program through a partnership with Brunswick-based Coastal Enterprises, Inc. The funding may be used for new construction, renovations, outdoor spaces, indoor furniture and fixtures, educational materials and working capital.
“Finding child care is a challenge for most working parents,” said Keith Bisson, President, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI). “Lack of child care keeps parents out of work, affecting a family’s economic well-being and causing a ripple effect of lower participation in Maine’s workforce. CEI is honored to partner with the State of Maine to help administer this grant program in support of our child care ecosystem.”
Applications for new family or home-based child care businesses are opening first, to encourage new providers in Maine’s rural areas, beginning today through May 2024. Home-based child care businesses may apply for 75 percent of their start-up costs, up to $8,500. Applications for new construction of child care centers and expansion of existing child care providers will be announced by August 2022.
New family child care businesses licensed by September 30, 2023 are also eligible for a one-time $2,000 stipend.
“Governor Mills and her Administration have recognized that child care is essential to Maine’s economy,” said Tara Williams, Executive Director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. “Investing in child care infrastructure grants reduce cost barriers for start-up child care businesses and program expansion. These investments in child care businesses and recent investments in the child care workforce continue to grow Maine’s child care system and are beneficial to Maine’s families and economy.”
“A high quality child care system is important for the future of Maine. The ongoing investments of Governor Mills and her Administration recognize the importance of supporting all parts of the system,” said Jennifer Wescott, Chair of the Family Child Care Association of Maine. “FCCAM appreciates the recognition of the important role that family child care providers serve in a high quality child care system. We appreciate the effort to support existing programs to expand and improve quality of care, as well as providing start up support for those new small businesses entering the profession.”
Governor Mills is making these and other historic investments in accessible child care in Maine as part of the first-ever Child Care Plan for Maine (PDF) developed by OCFS that invests approximately $120 million in American Rescue Plan funds to help Maine’s child care system recover and to improve quality, accessibility, and affordability over the long-term. Maine was one of the first 12 states to release these American Rescue Plan funds, with more than 1,500 providers receiving the payments to date. This investment also includes helping low-income parents who receive subsidies by waiving their contribution to child care fees.
Additionally, Governor Mills included in her supplemental budget, signed into law in April, State funding to continue $200 monthly stipends to more than 7,000 child care workers, continuing stipends that the Department began providing last year as part of a larger effort to attract and retain people to work in this valuable profession.
As a result of these investments totaling more than $100 million, child care providers have been able to maintain, and even build, capacity despite the pandemic – from 47,819 licensed slots in February 2020 to 48,940 licensed slots in June 2022.
OCFS additionally maintains the Child Care Choices website, which allows families to locate and connect with providers in their area.
The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to achieve three goals: immediate economic recovery from the pandemic; long-term economic growth for Maine; and infrastructure revitalization. It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people and strengthen the economy.