Why child care must part of the workforce conversation
We all know that finding workers is a challenge. We also know that access to quality and affordable childcare is one of the barriers keeping parents out of the workforce.
One of our chamber member childcare providers shared this with us, “Since Covid began, we have lost so many staff and we have been trying to hire, but qualified staff appear to be non- existent. The other issue we face is the rise in hourly rates of pay. When the private sector is paying $16.00 to $20.00 hourly, we cannot compete. Thankfully, we are getting some recovery act funds, but not enough to raise salaries to the right level. Working with children 40 hours a week is a difficult job that requires a love of children, energy, and so many other skills that even when we hire someone, lots of times they don’t stay.”
In July, Governor Mills signed into law, LD 1712, a bill that will expand access to quality, affordable child care in Maine. “The lack of high-quality, affordable child care in Maine is a major barrier to the success of our children and our economy. It prevents people from starting new businesses, taking new jobs and moving to rural communities. It also deprives kids of important developmental opportunities,” said Governor Janet Mills. “With this new law, and the important game-changing funds in the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, we can break down that barrier and give working families what they need to provide healthy, safe child care for their kids that allows them to go to work, bring home a paycheck, and strengthen our economy.”
The law builds on the Mills Administration’s ongoing work to expand affordable child care options in Maine. Through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, and the Child Care Plan for Maine. Details of both of these plans can be found on maine.gov.
Diane Dickerson, CEO of the Bangor Y echoed these child care challenges, “The need for licensed, affordable child care will continue to be a significant need for the region. This is why the Y’s vision is to expand its child care options to include infant care, starting at six weeks old. Providing high quality infant, preschool and school age care for all parents is essential if our region is to thrive and attract new employees and businesses to the area. We need to develop a comprehensive plan that deals with everything from affordability to staff shortages. Our parents are counting on us. They want and need to work but they can’t be successful unless we provide affordable, high quality care for their children.”
Our Federal delegation is also making this issue a priority. “The ongoing public health and economic crisis has underscored the fact that parents and employers alike need more quality child care options,” said Senator Collins. “Maine families face significant and growing barriers to child care, which can prevent parents from returning to jobs. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I recently secured funding in appropriations bills for projects that would help increase access to child care and expand the number of providers in Maine. As the appropriations process moves forward, I will continue to champion this funding.”
According to Senator King, ““In order to build strong communities and a promising economic outlook for future generations of Americans, we need to invest in their care and education from a very young age. When parents are forced to choose between the high cost of quality child care and early education and supporting their families, many are forced out of the workforce, leaving Maine businesses strapped for workers and children behind before they even get started. This issue regularly comes up in my conversations with people in Maine as a limiting factor in growing and improving our state’s economy.”
Earlier this year, the American Rescue Plan made a historic investment in childcare, with $39 billion appropriated to address the long standing unmet need and improve the resilience of daycare facilities across the country. Nearly $15 billion of that funding will assist childcare providers to remain open and support the families of healthcare workers, first responders, and others in essential roles. Almost $24 billion was allocated to help providers afford payroll, rent, facility improvements and maintenance, personal protective equipment, and mental health support for both children and employees of childcare centers. This assistance comes on top of $3 billion in the CARES Act and another $10 billion in the relief bill passed last December to support child care during the pandemic. President Biden’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget proposes additional financial support for childcare programs.
The Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce will continue to follow and advocate for these efforts. If you would like to learn more, please join us for our “Power Hour” event on December 1st at noon for a discussion with childcare provider organizations in our region.