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Dozens of child care bills being proposed in Augusta

Maine lawmakers are hearing from the public on more than 30 bills to bolster the state's child care system.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The need for child care is something parents across the state deal with every day. But 40 percent of day care facilities say they are understaffed.

"Until we address and fully invest in these workforce challenges, we'll continue to see access as a barrier across Maine child care," Heather Marden with the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children said.

Marden researched the gaps in Maine's child care system and testified against a bill that would allow more children at day care facilities. She also said she's "neither for nor against" another bill that would increase funding for families in need of child care, adding her organization plans to put full support behind another child care bill that's expected to be proposed later this season.

"Working families rely on it and depend on it. It's the backbone of Maine's economy as well as supporting healthy development for young children," Marden said.

Another bill aims to not only beef up the child care workforce but to support young people who live and work in Maine.

"We haven't quite put our money where our mouth is and really paid essential workers like the essential workers that they are," Sen. Joe Baldacci, the bill's sponsor, said.

The proposal by Sen. Baldacci, D-Penobscot, would help students and recent graduates pay for school, as long as they are working in a child care setting. It would cover up to $6,000 dollars in tuition costs per year.

"I'm hoping that it will attract people to do child care, particularly while they are going to the University of Maine or another university," Baldacci said.

The lack of child care is not only a problem here in Maine but across the country. Maine Senate President Troy Jackson and lawmakers across the country spoke to the White House on Tuesday about what can be done.

"It's obviously moved itself up through all the states to the White House that child care is a priority in this country and it should have been for a long time, and it's finally catching up," Jackson said.

Jackson agrees with Baldacci, that these workers need to be paid more and have more incentives to solve the childcare issue.

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