The Governor also took a walking tour of downtown Gorham and visited a 4-H Learning Center in Bridgton as part of her visit to Cumberland County today
CUMBERLAND COUNTY – Governor Janet Mills today underscored the importance of expanding child care in Maine during a visit to Creative Explorations Child Development Center in Windham.
The Maine Department of Labor has identified the lack of affordable child care as a barrier that prevents parents from entering and staying in the workforce. To tackle the problem, Governor Mills is investing $25 million through her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, approved by the Legislature, to help renovate, expand, or build new child care facilities and expand early childhood education programs.
The Governor last month also signed into law a supplemental budget that will deliver $200 monthly stipends to more than 7,000 child care workers across Maine, continuing stipends that her Administration began providing last year as part of a larger effort to attract and retain people to work in this valuable profession.
“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. “With our new budget and my 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.”
Creative Explorations provides child care for up to 85 infants, toddlers, and pre-school and school age children in the greater Windham area. Creative Explorations received more than $23,000 in economic recovery grants from the Mills Administration to help it sustain operations during the pandemic, and now its 19 staff are receiving $200 monthly stipends. During the visit, Governor Mills met with the staff and children and discussed her Administration’s efforts to expand quality, affordable child care for Maine children and their parents.
Additionally, Governor Mills is making other historic investments in accessible child care in Maine, including the first-ever Child Care Plan for Maine (PDF) developed by the Office of Child and Family Services that invests approximately $120 million in American Rescue funds to help Maine’s child care system recover and to improve child care quality, accessibility, and affordability over the long-term.
These investments build on the Mills Administration’s efforts to support Maine families’ access to child care before and during the pandemic, including helping low-income parents who receive subsidies by waiving their contribution to child care fees, distributing $10 million in federal CARES Act funding directly to providers through stipends and grants, and making available $8.4 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds to reimburse providers for COVID-19-related business costs. The state additionally maintains the Child Care Choices website, which allows families to locate and connect with providers in their area.
The Governor also visited Gorham and Bridgton during her time in Cumberland County as part of her effort to travel across the state to meet with local business and community leaders. Earlier this week, the Governor visited Sagadahoc County and last week she visited Piscataquis County.
The Governor took a walking tour of downtown Gorham, stopping into local businesses including Erin Flett Textiles and Home, Carters Green Market, Carter’s Auto Service, Aroma Joe’s, Lux Beauty Bar, Goodfellas Barbershop. The Governor also visited with Gorham’s Chief of Police, Chris Sanborn.
Governor Mills also visited the Maine Department of Inland, Fish and Wildlife’s Maine Wildlife Park in Gray with Representative Sue Austin (R-Gray).
She also visited the Magic Lantern Innovation Lab and Learning Center in Bridgton, which was acquired by the Maine 4-H Foundation and became a 4-H Learning Center last year. The center, which is led by University of Maine Cooperative Extension, provides a hub of creative activity for rural youth in the Maine Lakes Region, with an overarching goal of increasing affordable educational opportunities for rural youth in western Maine.
This evening, Governor Mills will join Maine Behavioral Healthcare, a member of the MaineHealth network, for the opening celebration of The Glickman Lauder Center of Excellence in Autism & Developmental Disorders. The new center triples Maine Behavioral Health’s capacity to serve individuals and their families through a continuum of care from inpatient to outpatient settings. The center serves Maine families, generates new treatment models and research, and trains the next generation of professionals. The Governor’s supplemental budget invests nearly $65 million to strengthen Maine’s behavioral health system.