In a major success of the session for the Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA) and other children’s advocates, the Biennial Budget adopted by the Maine Legislature included a limited restoration of funding for early childhood programs. Despite a daunting revenue shortfall, the budget includes $1.3 million in funding for Head Start, which provides early care, education, nutrition, and family support for low income families with young children. In addition, the budget directs the Department of Human Services to utilize these funds to draw down approximately $2.6 million in available federal funds to support child care for working families.
“Along with our partners in the Start ME Right Coalition and other allies, the MCA won vital support for early childhood programs, but this is only a small down payment to help compensate for recent state and federal budget cuts that have seriously harmed kids,” said Ned McCann, Executive Director of the MCA.
The Biennial Budget was enacted at the end of June, with a bi-partisan 2/3 majority of the Legislature voting to override the veto issued by Governor LePage.
“We are grateful for the support from Democrats and Republicans for early childhood education, but are also very disappointed in the failure to accept federal funding to provide health care for tens of thousands of Maine families,” McCann said. “The inability to override the Governor’s vetoes of legislation to improve MaineCare, to reduce children’s exposure to toxic chemicals, and modest background checks for gun purchases leave far too many kids in harm’s way.”
The MCA and its partners are already working on legislation for the Second Regular Session of the 126th Maine Legislature, which begins in January. Among the high priority items for 2014 are bills to expand pre-kindergarten in Maine, and to expand access to oral health for children and others, especially in rural Maine. The MCA will also be working on budget matters affecting the nearly 1 in 5 children living in poverty, and improving access to health care and education.