Jennifer Stevens, director of Happy Days at Colby Child Care Center in Waterville, plays with a baby in her care on Thursday. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The state of Maine is working to boost access to and the affordability of child care.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and signed by Gov. Janet Mills devotes about $60 million to Maine’s child care system over the next two years. The law will double monthly stipends for child care workers from $200 to $400 to attract and retain workers. The average hourly pay for someone working in child care is $15.42, or about $32,000 per year, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bill also expands eligibility for child care assistance for families earning up to 125% of the area’s median income – up from the current level of 85%. In Greater Portland, 125% of the area median income for a family of four is $147,875, while 85% is $100,555.

Additionally, The Children’s Cabinet’s Early Childhood Advisory Council will study incentives for employers to support child care for their employees, according to Jackie Farwell, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.  The council will review what has been successful in other states, barriers for Maine employers and what would be needed to implement solutions in Maine. It will report back to lawmakers by early next year.

The Legislature also is expected to take up two bills next session that would help employers defray the cost of child care.

One bill, sponsored by Rep. Maureen Terry, D-Gorham, would establish a business-supported child care tax credit for employers, similar to the federal benefit. This credit would use up to $1,000 per child or $10,000 total to build, furnish, license, staff, operate or subsidize a licensed child care facility or to contract with a licensed child care facility.

The other, sponsored by Sen. Trey Stewart, R-Aroostook, would encourage employers who provide or pay in-kind resources for the care of children of its employees, with a credit of 50% of the expended amount up to $3,000.

The state is partnering with Maine’s early childhood education advocates and Best Places For Working Parents – an organization that assists employers with assessing, identifying and adopting family-friendly policies – to launch the Maine Employer Toolkit, a guide developed for Maine employers planning to support child care for their employees.

The guide, according to DHHS, lists practical tools that Maine employers can use to support caregiving needs among the workforce, including ways to mix and match policies.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: