Breaking News
More () »

Maine childcare employees celebrate expected funding to bolster workforce

On Wednesday, dozens of people gathered in Augusta to celebrate the Legislature passing LD 1652 to invest $12 million into the childcare workforce.

AUGUSTA, Maine — On Wednesday, the morning air buzzed with excitement and a renewed sense of hope in Augusta. 

Dozens of people gathered together, eager to celebrate what is expected to be an essential milestone in the ongoing mission to support childcare workers in our state.

Last week, the Maine House voted 130 to zero to pass LD 1652, sponsored by Speaker of the Maine House of Representative Ryan Fecteau. Gov. Janet Mills supported the bill and is expected to sign it into law. And when she does, it will invest $12 million into ongoing funding to support Maine's childcare workforce.

"Your work deserves to be valued and not just with appreciation in the words we share, but in the pay you make," Fecteau said Wednesday. He was in the midst of Week of the Young Child, designed to bring more attention to the needs of young children and their families and the programs and services that help them.

Fecteau explained LD 1652 would provide a $200 per month stipend to every childcare worker in Maine, raising their wages. 

Starting in 2023, that amount will be tiered, based on education received designed to encourage more people to obtain a higher degree. Another goal of LD 1652 is to help Maine CTE schools develop and expand their early childhood education programs. 

"You guys are the future. You folks are the future of Maine," Mills said to a crowd on Wednesday.

Even before the pandemic, families struggled to find affordable options for childcare in Maine, and better-paying jobs have tempted workers. COVID exacerbated these issues, forcing some parents to stay home and closing some facilities. 

Rep. Amanda Collamore, R-Pittsfield, has a personal connection to the industry. She used to work in it until the cost of living forced her to look at different career opportunities. Collamore said LD 1652 is an excellent first step in addressing this issue but believes more needs to be done.

"I think there's an understanding in all parties that we need to support our early childhood educators," Collamore said. "I think the difference might be where we feel that support comes from, or where we feel that support should be directed."

Collamore said in the future, she'd like to see the addition of high-quality health care benefits (group insurance) for all child care centers and preschool programs discussed.

"I think the biggest issue that we've had is the staffing," Terri Crocker, owner and director of Creative Play Childcare in Bath, said. "I've lost staff. I've taken myself off payroll to bring more staff in."

In Portland, Tina Cannon, director of operations for Children's Odyssey, has experienced similar challenges.

"We're losing people to places like convenience stores because they can pay a little bit more and the job is honestly a little less stressful," Cannon said, noting Children's Odyssey is booked until fall 2023. 

Cannon said early childhood education has been treated differently than public school education for a long time and believes that needs to change. She said the $12 million LD 1652 will provide should be helpful, but more needs to be done. It is a start, though.

"At least now, for the first time, I feel like we're being heard as a profession," Cannon said.

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories

Before You Leave, Check This Out