Preschool students share a gift with King at on of the Bath Area Family YMCA’s three outdoor classrooms Thursday, June 2. John Terhune / The Times Record

During a visit to Bath Area Family YMCA Thursday afternoon, Sen. Angus King argued expanding child care options is a key step toward solving Maine’s labor shortage.

“Child care is almost like a road,” King said. “You can’t go to work without it. As we move into a time when we either have single parents or both parents working, child care and pre-K and all of those kinds of services are essential.”

YMCA staff and volunteers gathered with King in one of the organization’s three outdoor classrooms to detail their plan to construct a 12,000-square-foot early learning center. King helped secure nearly $1.5 million for the project as part of the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations package in March.

“It’s something we have to do,” Bath YMCA Early Childhood Director Annie Colaluca said of the $8 million project, which the group aims to complete in 2024. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Bath YMCA Early Childhood Director Annie Colaluca walks King through plans for the organization’s new early learning center. John Terhune / The Times Record

The Bath YMCA have applied for additional federal funding through the offices of King, Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree, according to CEO Sabrina Murphy, who added the organization would also pursue state funding.

Colaluca hopes the expansion, which will allow the organization to increase the size of its child care program from 52 to 108 kids, will help the rising number of area parents who struggling to find a spot for their children.


“(Our waitlist) grows by the day,” Colaluca said. “It’s hard, because I have to keep saying no. Parents and families are desperate for care.”

According Murphy, a strong workplace culture has helped the organization retain its child care staff and operate at capacity.

Yet other child care providers have struggled to remain open, as the pandemic worsened a pre-existing workforce shortage within the industry, according to Tara Williams, executive director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children.

“We’ve seen over 100 programs close during the first years of the pandemic,” Williams said. “Even though we got COVID-relief funding from the federal government, we’re still hearing announcements from program directors of closures on a regular basis.”

Senator King poses with a group of preschool students during his 6/2 visit to Bath Area Family YMCA. John Terhune / The Times Record

King, who has recently taken several steps to support kids and parents, including co-sponsoring a bill to ease the national baby formula shortage and securing $1.7 million in funding for York County Head Start programs, discussed the economic necessity of expanding child care.

“Our biggest economic problem now in Maine is inflation and workforce,” he said, echoing comments made by Gov. Janet Mills during a visit to Bath last month. “Every business I talk to is looking for workers, and part of the barriers to finding workers is housing and child care.”

King cited Bath Iron Works, which he said has struggled to recruit skilled laborers because of the difficulty of obtaining affordable housing.

Yet as important as the child care is for working parents, King, who spent nearly half-an-hour with an excited cohort of preschool students, said it’s just as vital for the kids themselves.

“If you have parents that are working, the kids still need the enrichment. This is more than a place for children to come and spend time. They learn.”

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