child care

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One of the biggest changes that students are facing as schools reopen this fall are new "hybrid" schedules, in which they may go to class just two or three days per week. That is also challenging for many parents who are now scrambling to find child care in a state where access and cost were major barriers, even before the pandemic.

Of the many sectors of the American economy slammed by the coronavirus pandemic, the businesses and individuals who provide child care to an estimated 12 million children under age 5 are among the hardest hit.

Hundreds of child care providers in Maine are slated to receive more than $8 million in federal money to help with the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Service says the $8.4 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars will go to more than 1,700 child care providers in the state. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills says the money will help with extra costs the providers have had to bear because of the pandemic.

More than 80% of licensed child care providers in the state are open.

Maine Attorney Aaron Frey says the federal government should do more to support child care providers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Courtesy Sadie Rioux

When the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country this spring, child care facilities in Maine were designated as “essential” businesses. Many closed anyway, but are now in the process of reopening, some at reduced capacity.

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This is a special two-hour Maine Calling program in response to the pressing issues facing Maine during the coronavirus crisis. For the second hour, click here.

As Maine feels the life-altering effects of the coronavirus crisis, most workplaces, businesses and schools are shutting down. But this raises a new set of challenges.

In the first hour of Monday's show, we address the child care dilemma that is facing Maine during this difficult time. Many who must continue to work — from those in the service industry and emergency workers to health care providers — still need care for their young children. Child care centers are finding themselves taking on more children, even as schools are mostly closed at this point. We'll learn how the state and the individual child care centers are addressing the pressing child care issues facing Maine.

Nick Woodward / Maine Public

In recent days, schools across Maine have closed as part of the state's strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19. But state health officials acknowledge that the situation is more complicated for child care facilities. While many have shut down, others are staying open and taking on an increasingly important role in providing care for the children of health care workers and other essential employees.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Maine Senate President Troy Jackson announced a new bill Friday that he says will increase access to quality child care for Maine's most vulnerable families. It has the backing of several educators, child advocates and businesses, who say that improving child care is critical for both Maine families and for the state’s economy.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public File

Brunswick-based Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI) is launching a program to support new child care businesses in rural Maine.

Robbie Feinberg / Maine Public File

Maine's U.S. senators say a Portland group has been awarded $400,000 to help improve rural child care in the state.

Province of British Columbia / Flickr

The LePage administration is relaxing certain requirements for child care providers who look after children in their own homes, while unilaterally increasing the amount of money they receive for enrolling low-income children with state-funded subsidies.

The administration says it’s overhauling the way the state treats this particular type of child care setting because it wants to reverse a long-term decline in the number of in-home child care providers and make affordable child care more widely available in rural areas.

The findings of a  federal report suggest that some of Maine's childcare facilities are dropping the ball on health and safety.