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Business and Economy

Maine House speaker seeks more training opportunities to address child care shortage

The Maine Children's Alliance reports a loss of 72 child care facilities in the state since 2020. Child care workers left the field due to the pandemic and because their wages couldn't support their families.

American Rescue Plan funding allowed Gov. Janet Mills to offer $200 monthly wage supplements to attract and retain child care workers, but those supplements expire in September.

Now, a bill by Rep. Ryan Fecteau, speaker of the state House of Representatives, aims to shore up the struggling industry.

Fecteau says he hears story after story about parents who cannot find child care, and daycare owners who cannot find workers.

The result: rooms at child care centers remain empty and unstaffed, and parents drive hours to drop a child at a daycare with room.

His bill aims to retain and attract workers with continued wage supplements and increase the number of early childhood education degree programs in the state.

"We want to make sure that the future child care workers in the state feel confident that this is a course of study and a career path they can take on and not worry that the job is not sustainable for their own family," Fecteau says.

Nineteen of Maine's 28 Current Technical Education Centers offer early childhood education programs, which provide hands-on learning for students and free child care for parents.

Fecteau says his bill will help CTE's maintain or start new early childhood education programs. And he says Mills has earmarked $12 million in her supplemental budget to back the initiative.

Fecteau's bill will be voted on by the Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee on Tuesday.