Early Childhood Policy Update, February 2012

Supplemental Budget Update:

Members of the Appropriations Committee came to agreement on the cuts to this current year budget (that runs through June 30, 2012). The next step will be for these budget changes to be voted on in the House and Senate.   You can access the Appropriations Committee documents the approved cuts at http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/materials/index.htm

How will the Appropriations Committee 2012 budget agreement affect young children?

Three important early childhood programs – Head Start, Child Care subsidies and Maine Families home visiting program – were not cut in the Committee agreement on the 2012 budget. However, coverage for 14,000 parents whose family income is between 133% and 200% of poverty will be eliminated on October 1, 2012. Reports consistently show that, when parents have access to physical and mental health services, they are better able to care for their children. We believe this agreement is deeply flawed. It will deny health care coverage to thousands of people. But it also protects thousands of others who would have suffered even more under the governor’s original proposal and maintains funding for important early childhood programs for the rest of this fiscal year.

The full legislature will decide soon whether or not to support the agreement.

Next: The 2013 Budget (July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013)

Members of the Appropriations Committee are now working on the 2013 budget. State funding for Head Start, child care subsidies and home visiting will again be at risk of reduction or elimination by the Committee.

These important programs provide distinct and important services to Maine’s families. The Governor’s proposed cuts that the Committee will again consider would drastically reduce the resources available to Maine’s most vulnerable young children and their families.

What would be the impact of reductions of cuts on these early childhood services?

Child Care Subsidies:

The Governor’s proposed budget would eliminate 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.

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.

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 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 Governor’s proposed budget would eliminate 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 program’s funding.

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 to 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 Governor’s 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.

TAKE ACTION NOW:

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 representative and senator 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 legislators, 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:

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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