Grants funded through the American Rescue Plan will help child care providers increase pay for workers and cover COVID-19-related costs
AUGUSTA— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that it will distribute $73 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to Maine child care providers to help them increase pay for staff and cover costs related to COVID-19, further supporting Maine families’ access to safe, affordable, and high-quality child care.
The DHHS Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) will award the Child Care Stabilization Grants to help eligible child care providers cover a variety of costs related to COVID-19. Providers that receive grants must use a portion of the funds to pay bonuses of $200 per month to staff who directly care for children, and additional funds can be used to pay for expenses including rent and utilities, reducing fees for families, loss of revenue, personal protective equipment and testing, and mental health services for children and employees.
Grant amounts will vary based on capacity and staffing, and additional funds will be available to programs that meet higher State quality standards, participate in the Child Care Subsidy Program, and offer extended hours to meet the needs of parents with nontraditional work schedules.
“Maine’s child care providers have been crucial to providing a safe place for kids to learn and grow while allowing their parents to go to work and contribute to our economic recovery,” said Governor Janet Mills. “These American Rescue Plan grants will help child care providers tackle the hardships presented by the pandemic, including staffing and lost revenue, and enable us to build a stronger, more sustainable and affordable child care system in our state – something that is vital as we strengthen our economy.”
“Access to affordable, high-quality child care is one of the most important ways we can support Maine’s working families during and after the pandemic,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “These grants will give providers resources they need as part of our broader plan to chart a sustainable recovery and brighter future for Maine’s child care system.”
The deadline for child care providers to apply for the current round of grant funding is September 30, 2021. To date, 951 of Maine’s providers (58 percent) have applied for these grants.
OCFS has supported providers in maintaining the majority of Maine’s child care capacity, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of September 2021, 97% of licensed programs are open and operating.
The Child Care Stabilization Grant Program is the latest round of funding the Mills Administration has made available for child care providers, in addition to $175 million for system improvements to support families and providers outlined in the DHHS Child Care Plan for Maine, as well as $10 million in capital funds for child care facilities and early childhood workforce development and training through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan. The $73 million allocated for the Child Care Stabilization Grant Program also follows $14 million in direct support payments to Maine’s child care providers since March 2020.
These investments build on the Mills Administration’s efforts to support Maine families’ access to child care before and during the pandemic. This includes dedicating nearly $3.5 million in federal funds to helping low-income parents who receive subsidies by waiving their contribution to child care fees, saving families up to $180 per week and currently supporting nearly 4,600 children. Maine is the only state in the nation that covers at least 75 percent of child care slots through its subsidy program, meeting the federally recommended standard, according to a 2020 report from the Prenatal-to-3 Impact Center.