Early Childhood Policy Update

Maine Children’s Alliance

Early Childhood Policy Update

January 25, 2012

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The proposed DHHS supplemental budget continues to be the most significant policy issue for children and families this legislative session. Members of the Appropriations and Health and Human Services Committees heard compelling stories from and about people who depend on the important programs and services threatened with elimination or significant reduction during the public hearings in December. Now, members of the Appropriations Committee are continuing their review of the Governor’s proposed budget cuts to DHHS early childhood programs. These include the elimination of all state funding for the child care system and Head Start and a major reduction in funding for the Maine Families home visiting program. Health care for low income parents is also threatened to be cut.

These important programs provide distinct and important services to Maine’s families. The Governor’s proposal would drastically reduce the resources available to Maine’s most vulnerable young children and their families. Here is a summary of the impact these cuts would have:

Child Care Subsidies:

The proposed budget eliminates all state funding of the child care system through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). The elimination of this funding will automatically trigger a reduction of federal matching funds, cutting total funding approximately in half. Parents in low wage jobs would lose child care subsidies and be forced into child care arrangements that are inconsistent, unstable and often unaffordable. Research has proven time and again that families are stronger and more economically stable when they have reliable, consistent child care. DHHS estimates that up to 1,600 children would lose a subsidy. This represents approximately half of the total number of children served in 2011.

Child Care Budget Cuts: Impact Analysis

Current Investment: State $ 4,442,236 Federal: $16,835,723

Proposed State Reduction: $4,442,236

Remaining State Investment: $0

Loss of Federal Resource: $6,025,942

Remaining Federal Investment: $9,989,754

Subsidies have been shown to help low-income parents find employment and stay employed. These findings are strongest for the most disadvantaged families. Subsidies also reduce job-related disruptions due to child care problems (Daily et al., 2011).

CCDF funding is used in two ways in Maine. Most of the funds are used to provide subsidies to families that can document they need this child care in order to continue working. The resources are also used to increase access to quality child care for all Maine families; ensure licensing rules are implemented; and provide consumer information and support for families. In order to ensure the smallest number of families lose a subsidy, the quality initiatives Maine currently supports will need to be significantly reduced.

Maine Families

Maine Families Home Visiting Program delivers evidence-based, costeffective services to Maine’s most vulnerable infants and young children. Maine Families provides a wide array of critical services focused on concerns such as drug-affected babies and family substance abuse, domestic violence, prevention of abusive head trauma and other severe infant abuse, and multiple areas of health and safety.  The proposed budget reduces all the home visiting funding from the Fund for a Healthy Maine. This cut, combined with a curtailment (reduction in funding) that went into effect on January 1, 2012, would result in a loss of 68% of the funding.

Home Visiting Budget Cuts: Impact Analysis

Current Investment: $ 4,171,383 (after $500,000 curtailment)

Proposed Reduction: $ 2,671,383 (All Fund for a Healthy Maine home visitation funding)

Remaining Investment: $ 1,500,000

Maine was recently awarded two federal home visitation grants. One grant is a limited grant intended to support the development of an integrated and cross disciplinary statewide system for home visitation and primarily supporting one demonstration site. The other is a larger four-year grant expand the existing program in order to reach more high risk infants (esp. drug-affected babies) statewide. Although there is no maintenance of effort (MOE) required for these federal resources, the proposed budget cuts could result in Maine not receiving this funding due to non-supplantation that is included in these grants. Non-supplantation means that new funds cannot be used to replace cuts in a program.

Head Start:

The proposed budget eliminates all state funding for Head Start. While DHHS projects that this represents at least 367 designated state funding slots statewide, it is likely many local communities served by Head Start would experience a disproportionate loss. Due to state child care licensing regulations and federal Head Start regulations, programs will be forced to eliminate service in communities. Rural communities without the population density or economies of scale to keep centers open will be most seriously affected. The majority of Head Start parents are working or in school, so this cut will result in low income families losing opportunities to increase their economic independence. Programs are preparing to close centers, which will result in job loss for currently employed teachers, cooks, janitors and other support staff.

Head Start Budget Cuts: Impact Analysis

Current State Investment $ 3,803,455

Current Federal Investment: $28,548,027

Proposed State Reduction: $ 3,803,455

Remaining State Investment: $ 0

MaineCare:

Coverage for 21,000 parents whose family income is between 100% and 200% of poverty would be eliminated. Healthy families are what make the difference for a child’s well-being. When parents have access to physical and mental health services they are better able to care for their children.

ADVOCACY ACTION:

The Maine Children’s Alliance believes these cuts are so deep and pervasive that they will decrease the quality of life for Maine families and communities.

We encourage you to make your opinion heard and speak out against these cuts to valuable early childhood programs. There are a number of ways you can get involved:

  • Contact members of the Appropriations committee and your local representative to express your support for these early childhood programs. We have developed two template letters that you can personalize.
  • Use those same templates to encourage others to contact their representative and senator, telling them about the importance of early childhood programs.
  • Here are links to the committee membership list as well as how to find your Senator or Representative:
  • Submit a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or post information on Facebook.

For more information or assistance drafting letters to legislators or the media, contact Judy Reidt-Parker: jreidtparker@mekids.org or 623-1868 ext. 210


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