Child care providers say state funding programs are insufficient


PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) – Governor Janet Mills’ recent state supplemental budget includes nearly $12 million to help Maine child care providers and workers.

Some of that funding makes some COVID-19-era programs permanent, but some providers say it hasn’t been enough.

“We were told we were getting money from the state, but we got very little money from the state during COVID,” said Pam Powers, owner of the Learning Time Development Center in Cumberland.

Powers has had to downsize its facilities because it is understaffed.

“I tried everything,” Powers said. “I just tried to go on Facebook, I tried to search among people I know, just anyone who is interested in doing this kind of work. I contacted people who work here to see if they know anyone. I actually tried.

Learning Time had nine full employees before COVID-19. Today they operate with a staff of six.

The state requires schools to have at least one teacher for every four to five children under the age of two and a half. It has been unable to find a new building suitable for its downsizing, so it closes at the end of July.

“I don’t have the personnel and financially it’s just not there,” Powers said.

Many child care workers say they have difficult jobs with low wages. The average wage is less than $15 an hour.

The state began paying eligible child care workers monthly stipends of $200 to supplement their wages in October 2021 using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The new supplementary budget makes these allocations permanent.

A press release from Mills says they hope the funds will help suppliers recruit and retain workers. In Powers’ case, that didn’t help.

“I’m going to get people to apply and they’ll set up appointments to come and then no one will show up,” Powers said.

Other child care centers like Learning Time are closing due to staffing shortages and financial difficulties.

According to an analysis of data from the Office of Child and Family Services, there are 824 licensed child care centers in Maine.

This is slightly less than the number of establishments in April 2020, despite state funding efforts.

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