Sep. 27—The Mills administration is making $73 million in grants available to child care providers in Maine to offer bonuses to staff members and to cover other costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 relief and stimulus package passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress in March contained nearly $24 billion in "child care stabilization grants" for distribution to states and tribal governments. The grants are aimed at helping to stabilize the industry at a time when many working parents are struggling to find child care because providers either closed during the pandemic or are limiting capacity because of staffing shortages.
As part of Maine's grant program, child care providers who receive money must provide $200 monthly bonuses to staff members who work directly with children. Facilities can also use the funding to lower costs to families or to cover COVID-related costs, including facility improvements, virus testing, personal protective equipment and other revenue losses.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services said 58 percent of child care providers in the state — or 951 businesses — had already applied for grants as of Monday with three days left before the application deadline.
"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 a statement. "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."
This story will be updated.