UMF to utilize $1 million through Governor’s Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to expand child care
Farmington, MAINE — Governor Janet Mills today visited the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) to highlight her Administration’s investments to expand child care across Maine and to continue increasing pay for child care workers.
The Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan dedicates $25 million in American Rescue Plan funds to help Maine communities renovate, expand, or build new child care facilities and expand early childhood education programs. UMF is utilizing $1 million from the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to renovate a former call center at 274 Front Street into the Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center.
Governor Mills visited the future site of the center today, along with Dannel Malloy, Chancellor of the University of Maine System; Edward Serna, President of the University of Maine at Farmington; Kathy Yardley, Associate Provost and Dean of Education; and Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.
“We know that a lack of quality affordable child care prevents people from taking jobs, from starting new businesses, from moving to rural communities, and it deprives kids of important developmental care. That’s why we are tackling this issue head on,” said Governor Mills. “I am proud that my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is creating more child care for hardworking parents in Maine, including right here in Farmington, but we have to do more. We will continue to deploy funds through the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to expand child care across Maine, and I hope the Legislature will approve my budget proposal to continue increasing pay for our child care workers.”
“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 Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.“But as we know all too well, Childcare providers have been through a lot these last few years, facing longtime challenges only exacerbated by the pandemic. By helping put this industry on stronger footing, we can address access gaps across our state – and help longtime providers and new ones succeed.”
“The University of Maine at Farmington is providing early childhood education leadership that promises a big return on investment,” said University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “We are grateful for the support of Governor Mills, the Legislature and the Maine Congressional Delegation for our work to provide access to high quality childcare for more Maine families, which enables them to pursue world class educational opportunities at our universities.”
“Teacher education programs are a hallmark of the University of Maine Farmington, and we are so excited at the prospect of moving closer to the renovation of this facility,” said Edward Serna, President of the University of Maine at Farmington. “This building will not only provide enhanced facilities for our students preparing to be early childhood educators throughout our state, but also expand the opportunities we have to offer high-quality care and education for children and families throughout our community.”
“It has never been more important to educate our students as professionals who will provide the quality care and early education that is essential for every child and their families. For more than 30 years the Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center has been a model for developing the next generation of early educators. This new center will expand that opportunity for our students and prepare them for today’s classrooms and tomorrow’s possibilities,” said Katherine Yardley, Dean of the UMF College of Education, Health and Rehabilitation.
The new 10,384 square foot, state of the art facility will allow UMF to create at least 20 slots for high-quality infant and toddler care and to increase enrollment in its early childhood education programs by at least 20 percent, supporting the State’s goal of training more skilled child care staff to enter and stay in the workforce.
The Center is expected to be open in January of 2023.
Governor Mills has also proposed through her supplemental budget more than $12 million to continue increasing pay for child care workers and early childhood educators, consistent with the goals of legislation sponsored by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau.
“Early childhood education is widely recognized to be among the best investments we can make in our future. Children enrolled in high quality early childhood education programs have fewer behavior problems and stronger social skills. They are more prepared for school. These advantages stay with young people as they continue through school and even into adulthood. More broadly, that means a stronger workforce and more stable communities in Maine’s future,”said Speaker Ryan Fecteau. “Investment in our critical child care system strengthens our workforce now, as parents and other family members are more able to work when they have access to quality education programs and childcare.”
“Access to affordable, high-quality child care is critical to supporting working families and helping Maine children grow up safe, healthy and ready for school,” said Maine Office of Child and Family Services Director Todd Landry. “These investments recognize the valuable work of Maine’s child care staff, which has shown through during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. By continuing to stabilize and strengthen the child care system, Maine can create greater opportunities for children and families now and in the years to come.”
The Administration has already provided $200 monthly stipends to more than 6,600 child care workers to encourage them to work in Maine’s child care system, as part of federally funded grants to help child care providers cover costs related to COVID-19. Maine began distributing these federal funds in September 2021, becoming one of the first states in the nation to deliver this critical support to providers.
The Mills Administration is releasing $120 million in American Rescue funds as part of its Child Care Plan for Maine (PDF) — the first plan of its kind in the state’s history — to help Maine’s child care system recover from the coronavirus pandemic and to improve child care quality, accessibility, and affordability over the long-term.
Along with child care, Governor Mills has made expanding Pre-K a priority. The Governor has increased Maine’s investment in public Pre-K programs by $5.4 million, resulting in 90 more Pre-K classrooms across the state. And just last month, she announced $2.7 million in grants from her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to 14 school districts to further expand Pre-K to more than 500 children across Maine, with another $6.3 million to be awarded in the fall of 2023.
If approved by the Legislature, the supplemental budget will bring the Mills Administration’s total investment of state and federal dollars in Maine’s child care system to almost $190 million.