Governor Mills’ Budget Proposal Invests in Maine Children and Youth

February 7, 2023

The Governor’s biennial budget proposes investing approximately $240 million to strengthen Maine’s education and early care system and provide critical supports to children, youth and their families.

The budget aligns with and supports the goals of the Children’s Cabinet, which Governor Mills reestablished in early 2019. Many of the budget initiatives related to children and youth build on initiatives and strategies currently being implemented across state agencies to advance the Cabinet’s goals of ensuring that all Maine children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed and that all Maine youth enter adulthood healthy and connected to the workforce and/or education. The state agencies participating in the Children’s Cabinet include the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Public Safety and Corrections.

The Governor’s budget includes initiatives to strengthen direct services for children and support professionals working with children and their families:

  • Increasing funding for early care and education and child welfare in the upcoming biennium:
    • Supporting early childhood educators: The budget requests nearly $8 million to fully fund the child care salary supplements enacted in the FY2022 supplemental budget to so that child care workers will continue to receive increased pay for the critical care and education they provide for young children – making Maine one of the few states using its own funds for this purpose.
    • Meeting educational needs of young children with disabilities: The budget requests an additional $10.5 million to fund preschool programming for young children with special needs through Child Development Services.
    • Expanding Maine’s early childhood mental health consultation program: The budget proposes $5 million for ongoing support for programs like the early childhood mental health consultation program. The Early Childhood Consultation program provides critical tools, supports and consultation for early childhood educators in child care programs and elementary schools to address the social emotional and behavioral health needs of young children.
    • Continuing investments in Maine’s child welfare system: Building on the substantial funding provided in prior budgets, this biennial budget requests nearly $12 million for foster care and adoption assistance and also provides an additional $2 million for foster care reimbursement rate increases.
  • Investing in Maine’s public schools and students:
    • Maintaining 55 percent obligation: The Governor’s budget proposes $101 million over the biennium to support Maine schools and continue meeting the State’s obligation to pay 55 percent of local education costs.
    • Fully funding universal school meals: The Governor’s budget proposes full funding at $58 million for universal free meals for students in public schools and for publicly funded students in approved private schools. Maine is one of a handful of states nationwide that has chosen to provide state funding to maintain free school meals once the federal COVID funds expired.
    • Expanding Career and Technical Education: The budget includes $1 million to Career and Technical Education programs for middle school students.
  • Improving access to post-secondary education and training:
    • Continuing Free Community College: The budget includes $15 million to continue providing up to two years of free community college for all students from the high school graduating classes of 2024 and 2025.
    • Improving Higher Education Affordability: The budget proposes $10 million to increase the Maine State Grant Program’s maximum award from $2,500 to $3,000. The Maine State Grant Program provides need-based grants to Maine undergraduate students to help with the cost of higher education. If approved by the Legislature, Governor Mills’ budget will have doubled the Maine State Grant Program from $1,500 to $3,000 during her time in office.
  • Investing in children’s behavioral health:
    • In addition to MaineCare rate increases for mental health and substance use disorder services for parents and other adults, the budget includes $17 million ($10 million GF) to bolster children’s behavioral health services. The overarching goals of these initiatives are to improve the accessibility, availability, and quality of these services for children and their families.
  • Supporting youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD): The budget proposes to transform service delivery for adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities by creating a new Lifespan waiver, which will address multiple levels of need over an individual's lifetime within a single program. Currently, individuals with IDD can experience abrupt transitions as they move from children’s services to adult services. Lifespan will enroll individuals earlier (at age 14), enabling the development of a life plan and making the transition to adulthood smoother. Beginning January 1, 2025, the Lifespan waiver will enroll 40 children (ages 14-17) per month and offer a range of services currently offered in MaineCare Sections 21 and 29.

These proposed investments will improve access to services and supports to help children and families successfully navigate and make key transitions in life.