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Child care providers say state funding programs are insufficient

Many child care workers say they work difficult jobs with low salaries. The average pay is less...
Many child care workers say they work difficult jobs with low salaries. The average pay is less than $15 an hour.(WMTW)
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 7:03 AM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (WMTW) - Gov. Janet Mills’ recent state supplemental budget includes close to $12 million dollars to help childcare providers and workers in Maine.

Part of that funding makes certain COVID-19 era programs permanent, but some providers say that hasn’t been sufficient.

“We were told we were getting money from the state, but we’ve gotten very minimal money from the state over the course of COVID,” said Pam Powers, the owner of Learning Time Development Center in Cumberland.

Powers had to downsize her facility because she’s understaffed.

“I’ve tried everything,” Powers said. “I’ve tried just going on Facebook, I’ve tried looking through people I know, just anybody who’s interested in doing this kind of work. I’ve reached out to people that work here to see if they know anybody. I’ve tried Indeed.”

Learning Time was fully staffed with nine employees before COVID-19. Today, they operate with a staff of six people.

The state requires that facilities have at least one teacher for every four to five children under the age of two-and-a-half. She hasn’t been able to find a new building that makes sense for her downsize, so she’s closing at the end of July.

“I don’t have the staffing and financially it’s just not there,” Powers said.

Many child care workers say they work difficult jobs with low salaries. The average pay is less than $15 an hour.

The state started giving eligible childcare workers monthly $200 stipends to supplement their pay in October 2021 using American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The new supplemental budget makes those stipends permanent.

A news release from Mills says they hope the funds will help providers recruit and retain workers. In Powers’ case it hasn’t helped.

“I’ll get people that will apply and they’ll set up appointments to come over and then no one shows,” Powers said.

Other day cares like Learning Time are closing amid staffing shortages and financial challenges.

According to an analysis of data from the Office of Child and Family Services, there are 824 licensed child care facilities in Maine.

That’s slightly less than the number of facilities in April 2020, in spite of state funding efforts.

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