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Business and Economy

$7M in federal funds for affordable housing, childcare coming to Cumberland County

Nearly a dozen Cumberland County projects and nonprofits will share $7 million in American Rescue Plan Funding. The money will be used to create more affordable housing, provide food security, childcare and mental health services.

The federal money will fund the construction of more than 300 affordable homes in Westbrook, Gray and Scarborough, secure thousands of meals a day to feed the hungry, and provide mental health services for more than 4 thousand residents in Cumberland County. Youth and Family Outreach of Portland is getting money to expand its childcare facility and put 60 affordable housing units above it. Program Coordinator Michelle Belanger says the expansion will help them pare down a lengthy waitlist for childcare.

"The expansion is going to allow us to pretty much double our capacity....looking at going to 107 childcare spots," Belanger says.

The pandemic also increased the number of residents who are hungry in Maine. Preble Street's Food Security Hub is getting 1.5 million dollars to buy equipment to expand its commercial kitchen and processing center. Food Programs Director Natalie Varrallo says the demand for food has grown 25% during the pandemic.

"We provide 1,200 to 1,500 meals a day now. This will allow us to double that in the first year with the goal down the road being 10,000 meals a day" Varrallo says.

A Cumberland County spokesman says a second round of funding will be dedicated to childcare access, workforce training, and public water projects, other critical needs the county has identified to help residents recover and move forward from the pandemic.