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Maine DHHS announces $73M in federal grants to support Maine child care providers

The deadline for child care providers to apply for the current round of grant funding is Sept. 30, 2021.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced Monday that it will distribute $73 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to Maine child care providers to help them increase pay for staff and cover costs related to COVID-19.

The money is intended to further support Maine families’ access to safe, affordable, and high-quality child care, according to a release from DHHS.

The DHHS Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) will award the Child Care Stabilization Grants to help eligible child care providers cover a variety of costs related to COVID-19. Providers that receive grants must use a portion of the funds to pay bonuses of $200 per month to staff who directly care for children, and additional funds can be used to pay for expenses including rent and utilities, reducing fees for families, loss of revenue, personal protective equipment and testing, and mental health services for children and employees, according to a release from DHHS.

Grant amounts will vary based on capacity and staffing, and additional funds will be available to programs that meet higher State quality standards, participate in the Child Care Subsidy Program, and offer extended hours to meet the needs of parents with nontraditional work schedules.

“Maine’s child care providers have been crucial to providing a safe place for kids to learn and grow while allowing their parents to go to work and contribute to our economic recovery,” Gov. Janet Mills said in Monday's release. “These American Rescue Plan grants will help child care providers tackle the hardships presented by the pandemic, including staffing and lost revenue, and enable us to build a stronger, more sustainable and affordable child care system in our state – something that is vital as we strengthen our economy.”

Tara Williams, executive director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children, said these monthly grants "can bring some calm to what has been a constant storm in Maine child care."

"These federal funds coming to Maine through the American Rescue Plan Act are at a level that can truly stabilize our child care sector. Most of the previous child care relief funds only covered a small portion of the losses that programs were incurring," Williams told NEWS CENTER Maine via email. "So, while most stayed open, their debt piled up. These monthly grants can bring some calm to what has been a constant storm in Maine child care, with so many programs struggling to stay afloat."

"What is most exciting and brings hope to the teachers, staff, and leaders of Maine's child care programs, is that our federal government is talking about a more permanent solution," she continued. "Congress is debating legislation this week that would bring significant public investment into child care, which would allow Maine to have strong, stable, and thriving child care programs for children and families."

The deadline for child care providers to apply for the current round of grant funding is Sept. 30, 2021. To date, 951 of Maine’s providers (58 percent) have applied for these grants, according to DHHS.

“Access to affordable, high-quality child care is one of the most important ways we can support Maine’s working families during and after the pandemic,” DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in Monday's release. “These grants will give providers resources they need as part of our broader plan to chart a sustainable recovery and brighter future for Maine’s child care system.”

Applications for the Child Care Stabilization Grant Program can be found here.

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