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Maine Child Care Providers To Recieve About $11M In Coronavirus Relief

Kevin Bennett
for Maine Public
Toys litter the playground as children race to line up for lunch after play outside at Parkside Childrens Learning Center in Bangor in June 2019

Child care providers in Maine are set to receive about $11 million to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money comes from the federal relief bill passed last month. The funds will provide a one-time stipend to eligible child care providers, and will also support them once they can resume their services following the pandemic.

Heather Marden, the board chair for the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children, says the money is a welcome first step for the many providers who have either lost income or shut down in the past month.

“Just the relief of knowing that something is coming, I think, has made a lot of providers take that deep breath and go, 'Okay, I've got something coming at least,'” Marden says. “So if we can just continue to build on that, it can ultimately be the outcome that we don't lose any childcare programs after this crisis.”

But Marden says those providers are going to need a lot more support in the months ahead. The state says that about half of all licensed child care centers remain open in Maine. A survey from last month  found that many would be unable to reopen their programs without government support.

The state says it's also temporarily expanding its child care subsidy program to any essential employees who still need to go into work, regardless of income.

“So that all of our essential and frontline workers who are continuing to work outside the home will be able to benefit from subsidy,"  says Todd Landry, the director of the state’s Office of Child and Family Services. "Which certainly helps them, and I believe helps their kids, as well.”

Matt Schlobohm, the executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, says that the new funds will provide needed economic relief for some frontline workers, but he says additional support is needed for essential workers, including guaranteed paid sick leave and increased health and safety protections.

“This step around childcare is a very positive step,” Schlobohm says. “And there's much more at all levels of government that we should be doing to take care of those who are taking care of all of us.”