Blog | July 27, 2021

Members Help Secure Major Win for High-Quality Child Care across Maine

New legislation in Maine provides key funding for child care across the state

Following the release of a Council for a Strong America report and video highlighting the accessibility challenges of early childhood programs in Maine’s rural communities, as well as months of work by our members and allies, Governor Janet Mills recently signed into law LD 1712, “An Act to Support Children’s Healthy Development and School Success.” The bill will expand access to affordable, high quality child care by creating up to five additional programs across Maine using the successful Somerset County Early Head Start-Child Care partnership program model. Legislators hope that LD 1712 will help to ameliorate the situations of the more than one-in-five Maine children who live in child care deserts, especially those who live in rural areas. The programs are comprehensive and community-based. Coalitions of stakeholders, providers, and others within each of the communities that these projects serve will sponsor the programs.

Members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, ReadyNation and Mission: Readiness played key roles in securing support for this legislation. Through testimony to legislators, letters to Governor Janet Mills and Senate President Troy Jackson, earned media, and personal outreach to key policymakers, members described the positive impact LD 1712 would have on Maine as a whole. Since Governor Mills signed the bill into law, these members have taken to the front lines to recognize the importance of the programs that this law will create and to thank Governor Mills, Senate President Jackson, and other legislators for their leadership on such an essential issue.

Dana Connors with pre-K students
Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce

ReadyNation member Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, wrote to thank Governor Mills and Senate President Jackson for their work on the bill. Connors highlighted the wide variety of groups throughout the state that the new law will benefit, which span from children to parents to business leaders. “These programs have many benefits. They build kids’ important foundational skills that help them start school ready to learn, do well in all grades, complete high school, achieve a post-secondary degree or credential, and succeed in the workplace,” Connors wrote. “Altogether, this new law will help more kids get a stronger start in life and will help strengthen Maine families, communities, workforce, employers, and Maine’s economy, especially as Maine continues recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Sheriff Joel Merry
Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids member and Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry emphasized the importance of high-quality child care, noting that “When kids get a strong start that helps them do well in school, they are more likely to see positive life opportunities and make healthy and wise choices, and are less likely to participate in criminal behavior.” Merry added that, “I hope that this new funding will mark the beginning of an even deeper commitment to investing in affordable child care.”

Jim Clair at press conference
Jim Clair, CEO of CSS Health and a former Chair of Educare Central Maine

ReadyNation member Jim Clair, CEO of CSS Health and a former Chair of Educare Central Maine, called attention to the fact that the five new child care programs will help on both a familial and larger economic level. “The positive outcomes of these programs will benefit not only the kids who participate, but also their families, their future employers, the communities in which they live, and Maine’s economy,” Clair wrote. “These programs also help parents who want to work, but cannot, due to a lack of accessible, high-quality, and affordable early child care. Considering Maine’s workforce shortage—made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic—and our state’s need to significantly grow its workforce, access to child care is an increasing priority for Maine employers.”

Steve DeCastro Headshot
Steve DeCastro, President & CEO of Gorham Savings Bank
Chris Emmons
Chris Emmons, former President & CEO of Gorham Savings Bank

ReadyNation members Steve DeCastro and Chris Emmons, the current and former Presidents and CEOs of Gorham Savings Bank, co-authored a letter to the editor thanking the Governor and legislature for their work. “From a business perspective, lack of access to high-quality child care is often a barrier to workforce participation. The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright light on this barrier as a major factor in Maine’s labor shortage. Many parents are not able to be employed if their kids do not have quality care” the pair wrote. “Additionally, by helping young children develop key learning and social-emotional skills, high-quality child care programs give many kids a strong start, so that they have a better chance to succeed throughout their lives”

Now that the bill has been signed into law, the focus turns to the creation and implementation of the programs it authorizes.

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