February 26, 2021
The Maine DHHS Office of Child and Family Services today announced spending priorities for the additional $30.5 million in federal funds the State of Maine has received to support children, families, and child care providers with affordable child care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The burden of the pandemic response – including school closures, drastic changes to work and the loss of employment, and new health and safety requirements – has challenged Maine families and child care providers alike, while also exacerbating existing barriers to affordable child care.
To address the unique needs of both families and providers during this time, Congress allocated $10 billion in additional funds for the Child Care Development Block Grant, as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act (CRRSA) passed in December 2020.
Based on input from a variety of stakeholders, including the Children’s Cabinet Early Care Advisory Council, and OCFS’ collaboration with regional partners, OCFS has identified six spending priorities for the $30.5 million in CRSSA funds that we believe will best support Maine children, families, and providers:
- Changing the Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP) award to enrollment-based versus attendance-based to better assist families in covering actual expenses for child care. This means a provider is compensated for the slot even if a child is attending less than the full hours, which is typical due to schools having hybrid schedules and remote learning.
- Expanding the Maine’s Early Childhood Consultation Partnership program to three additional sites identified as high-need communities in Washington/Hancock, York, and Franklin/Oxford counties.
- Waiving the parents’ portion of the child care payment for low-income parents participating in the Child Care Subsidy Program for one year.
- Improving the Child Care Choices website, and developing a mobile app, to assist families in locating child care.
- Providing additional support to providers for technical assistance, resources, and professional and business development.
- Awarding grants to aid child care providers in continuing operations throughout the pandemic and recovery phase to cover items such as PPE, hazard-pay and bonuses for staff, and lost earnings due to closings for quarantine or reduced enrollment to meet social distancing guidelines.
OCFS will be reaching out to families and providers who are eligible for these initiatives and will publish additional information on program implementation, including provider grant application guidelines, in the coming weeks.