Governor Mills Announces $24 Million Federal Award to Strengthen Early Childhood Support for Maine Families

Federal grant will strengthen community supports and educational opportunities for young children through coordinated effort led by the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet

Governor Janet Mills announced today that her Administration will use a recently approved $24 million Federal grant to strengthen the State’s early childhood system for Maine children and families.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families will enhance a variety of early childhood services for Maine children aged 5 or younger. These will include expanded outreach and programming to families with young children, pilot projects to make Pre-K more accessible, professional development for early childhood educators, and financial support for child care providers to improve their program offerings. The grant will also support the development of an Early Childhood Integrated Data System to help make data-driven decisions about programs and policies to benefit Maine children.

The grant, which runs over three years, will be administered by the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the Early Learning Team at the Department of Education and the staff of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet.

“Early childhood programs prepare Maine kids for bright, healthy futures and help parents stay in the workforce. This Federal grant will build on the significant work my Administration is doing to expand the availability of these crucial programs, along with much needed child care and Pre-K options across the state,” said Governor Janet Mills. “Strengthening Maine’s early childhood system is good for children, working families, and our economy.”

“This award will accelerate Maine’s progress in strengthening the child care system for working families,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “Investing in high-quality care and the vital workforce that provides it will benefit Maine’s children, communities, and economy.”

“Early childhood education and Pre-K provide children with the healthy foundation they need to thrive in school and in their lives. This grant will enable more Maine children to access those vital early learning opportunities and it helps further the progress we’ve made to expand pre-k across our state,”said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education.

“We celebrate Maine being awarded a Preschool Development Grant and the opportunity to build upon early childhood collaboration,” said Heather Marden, Co-Executive Director, Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. “This is a great step forward to connect and strengthen the birth through age five systems that support child care centers, family child care, Head Start, and Publicly funded Pre-K.”

“We know the first five years of a child’s life lays the foundation for future growth and development,” said Stephanie Eglinton, Executive Director, Maine Children’s Alliance. “This federal funding will provide crucial support to the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet as they work to create a comprehensive early childhood system for Maine’s children and families.”

Over the past three years, the Mills Administration has provided more than $100 million in Federal funding for child care. Through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, approved by the Legislature, Governor Mills is investing $15 million to help renovate, expand, or build new child care facilities.

These funds are part of unprecedented investment to increase access to high-quality care and support for Maine’s child care workforce via the state’s first-ever Child Care Plan for Maine (PDF), which charts how OCFS is helping Maine’s child care system recover from the pandemic and improving child care quality, accessibility, and affordability over the long-term.

OCFS is also providing permanent monthly salary supplements for child care workers who provide direct care. Governor Mills supported and signed into law more than $12 million in ongoing state funding for salary supplements for these workers to strengthen the early care and education system across Maine.

As a result of these state and federal investments, Maine has maintained and built child care slots beyond pre-pandemic levels, created permanent salary supports for over 7,000 child careworkers, and incentivized child care construction to add as many as 4,700 new slots as part of the work of the Children’s Cabinet.

Governor Mills, in 2019, announced she would reconvene the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, which was created in 1996 by then-Governor Angus King as a forum for government agencies to collaborate on policies to support Maine children.

The Children’s Cabinet is comprised of the Commissioners of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, Public Safety, and Corrections, and is coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.