ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones joined members of the Senate and House to announce a legislative package aimed to increase childcare capacity and enrollment throughout the state.
“The pandemic has obliterated so many of Maryland’s childcare facilities, and according to recent reports more than 750 providers have been forced to close during the pandemic,” said President Bill Ferguson. “That has made it expeditiously harder for working families in Maryland to find adequate childcare allowing them to get back into the labor market and provide for their families.”
The childcare package includes legislation that removes barriers to access in childcare, provides greater financial assistance for special education childcare providers, and helps providers expand their facilities, make critical renovations, hire new employees, and retain existing employees.
“One of the single, most important issues we’re facing as a state and as a country is the worker shortage,” said Speaker Adrienne Jones. “Having strong, reliable childcare plays a critical role in getting more Marylanders back to work. We’re taking meaningful actions to support Maryland’s childcare providers because the strength of our economy and Maryland’s families depends on it.”
Nationally, the cost of childcare has risen nearly 41%. In Maryland, from March of 2020 to December 2021, childcare costs have ranged from an increase of 12% to as much as 33%, depending on the setting and type of care.
“The drastic rise in childcare costs coupled with the significant reduction in childcare providers puts a financial strain and burden on families who continue to struggle with inflation and rising costs,” said Delegate Jared Solomon. “The improvements we’re making to the scholarship program will make childcare in Maryland more affordable and help open more childcare centers so more parents can get back to work and more kids can get the high-quality care they deserve.”
“It’s worth noting that our childcare providers are among the lowest-paid workers nationally, even though they have been critical during the pandemic to families with children whose parents must leave home to work themselves,” stated Senator Nancy King. “We are losing staff at an alarming rate and as our local economy begins to get back to pre-pandemic labor levels, childcare providers cannot be overlooked.”
Because of financial hardship and under-enrollment, Maryland lost nearly 800 licensed childcare facilities between January 2020 and November 2021 – the height of the pandemic.
“The lack of availability in childcare is an issue that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Delegate Pam Queen. “During the pandemic, over half of the childcare providers were in danger of closing, and we need to do more to help stabilize this important industry.”
“The ramifications of the pandemic and the subsequent closure of daycares have created unpredictability for parents and led to exhausted families,” stated Senator Katie Fry Hester. “The childcare centers are a vehicle of stability for parents who return to work –especially single-parent families who do not have other options.
The package includes legislation that:
- Improves the childcare scholarship program so students on the edge of eligibility will be automatically enrolled and childcare providers participating in the scholarship program will receive their payments faster.
- Creates a $35 million revolving loan fund available to childcare providers participating in the scholarship program. The loans will be at no interest and can be used for expansion, new construction/acquisition, and renovations of childcare facilities.
- Provides $16 million in retention and new hire bonuses for childcare employees.
- Provides a grant program for childcare providers who support students with developmental disabilities.
- Prioritizes family childcare and allows providers most in need a better opportunity to take advantage of the state’s $50 million stabilization grant this fiscal year.
“Childcare plays a central role in early learning,” stated Delegate Eric Ebersole. “This package both helps struggling childcare providers and lays the foundation to build a world-class education system in Maryland.”
“We also know how critical the first years of an individual’s life is to determine their ability to thrive in the future. That’s why the legislature passed the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future to drastically increase access to publicly funded pre-k slots in every Maryland jurisdiction,” said Senator Mary Washington.