New Legislation Supports Child Care in Maryland
Parents and child care providers in Maryland can expect improved and expanded assistance thanks to the recent passage of eight pieces of legislation.
“I’m heartened by the increased public attention and support for child care as an industry,” says Laura Weeldreyer, executive director of Maryland Family Network, a grantee of the Annie E. Casey Foundation that provided information for legislators about the effects of the proposed policies.
The centerpiece of the package is legislation that helps eligible parents access child care through the state’s Child Care Scholarship Program. Currently, parents in low-income households may wait weeks to be approved for the program. Under the bill, applicants will be presumed eligible for financial support pending a final determination and allowed to enroll their children without any delay.
Under the new legislation, applicants will no longer have to pursue child support payments in order to become eligible for child care subsidies, previously an obstacle for many single parents.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, child care providers across the country struggled to retain staff and stay open. The legislative package will support providers by:
- allocating $53 million in state funds for grants to child care providers who are struggling financially ― funds that will essentially replace federal money allocated in the past two years;
- establishing a no-interest loan fund for child care providers to acquire, expand or renovate facilities; and
- creating a fund to pay hiring and retention bonuses for child care staff, helping providers compete with employers that offer similar bonuses to new workers.
The package also funds two programs intended to meet the growing demand for mental health support services for young children at child care centers as well as therapeutic child care support for children with developmental issues. Lastly, the legislation makes the purchase of diapers, car seats and other baby products exempt from state sales tax, providing some additional financial relief to parents.
High-quality, accessible and affordable child care is a vital requirement for parents looking to complete their education, succeed in the workforce and provide for the healthy development of their children. “I hope these steps will help child care remain a viable, sustainable business and that we attract talented wonderful people who really care about kids because there’s a tremendous need,” says Weeldreyer. “I hope families find child care providers who are affordable, accessible and who they feel a good partnership with.”
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