Bill proposes giving employers incentives for on-site childcare | Maine

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(The Center Square) – Maine’s ongoing child care crisis was back under the microscope Friday as a legislative panel began its review of a bill that could give employers incentives for on-site accommodations.

State Rep. Rebecca Jauch, D-Topsham, is the sponsor of Legislative Document 103, a bill that would require large employers receiving tax credits or other state money to provide on-site child care in exchange for the incentives.

As proposed, LD103 also would give smaller employers the opportunity to participate in the same program through a cooperative agreement.

Jauch and several of her co-sponsors went before the Legislature’s Committee on Innovation, Development and Economic Advancement of Business on Friday and discussed the rationale behind LD103.

Out of the gate, Jauch suggested consolidating some of the ad-hoc efforts that have been taking place to address child care needs and bringing them together in the hopes of bringing varied viewpoints and expertise areas together.

As is the case with many areas of the country, Maine continues to grapple with a workforce shortage, and it has been exacerbated by the cost of child care in some income brackets.

“This keeps some parents out of the workforce entirely,” Jauch said as she laid out the rationale behind LD103. “We need meaningful private and public investment. Investing in child care today will lead to a brighter future for all of us tomorrow.”

Jauch said her goal behind the legislation also is to seek custom solutions that will benefit all corners of Maine.

“I know it’s not a one-size-fits-all,” she said. “Different areas of the state need different solutions.”

State Rep. Cheryl Golek, D-Harpswell, is a co-sponsor of LD103. She said she agreed to sign onto it because she hopes to bring solutions to a chronic issue within Maine.

“The need for child care in our state cannot be understated,” Golek said. “This bill will bring people to the table, to listen to the issues facing our state.”

There was objection to LD103 as the committee took testimony at Friday’s meeting.

Ana Hicks is the policy director of Gov. Janet Mills’ Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. Hicks said many of the goals outlined in LD103 – including calls to study the issue further – are duplicative.

“We support and appreciate the purpose of this goal,” Hicks said. “However, we don’t believe another working group is needed.”

Hicks said a Children’s Cabinet assembled through the office already brings together a number of experts in a cross-section of state agencies to seek solutions to the child care shortage.

Business outreach and engagement is part of the cabinet’s focus, though it extends beyond it, Hicks explained.

Nick Murray of the Maine Policy Institute also spoke at the hearing and objected to LD103, as well as the state’s overall approach to regulating child care facilities across Maine, which he argued has posed economic challenges.

“Please, legislators, stay in your lane,” Murray said. “Get out of the way of these folks. The rules and regulations from this state are not helping.”

The Committee on Innovation, Development and Economic Advancement of Business will hold a work session on LD103 on an as-yet undetermined date to dig deeper into the bill.

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