March 23rd Press Event

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Lori Moses
603-856-7517

Leading State Organizations Condemn Proposed U.S. House Budget Cuts as Devastating to Maine Children and Families

AUGUSTA, ME///March 23, 2011///The initial U.S. House-passed Continuing Resolution (CR) would cause Maine children to lose vital services and programs.  Already faced with a severe state budget deficit, the situation for Maine’s youngest residents will be made much worse if Congress adopts cuts of this magnitude. That is why representatives from several state organizations gathered today to speak out against these federal budget cuts and the threat they pose to families in Maine.

During a tele-news conference this afternoon, speakers from the Maine children’s community elaborated on the effects the federal budget cuts would have in the state.

Lori Moses, Field Director of Every Child Matters in Maine, began by calling on Senators Snow and Collins, and Representatives Pingree and Michaud to keep Maine’s children in mind as they continue their work on a budget for the remaining months of 2011.

Referring to the newly-released Kids Count data which shows 17.5% of Maine’s children living in poverty, Moses said, “The data clearly tells us that now is not the time to be cutting smart policies and proven programs that benefit Maine’s children. All of us on the phone today are urging the U.S. House and Senate to fund these programs at their current levels for the rest of the year. The United States is a rich country with a budget deficit. It can bring the deficit down without sacrificing the future of our children. “

At risk of being cut is funding for Maine’s 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) programs, which provide after-school supervision and learning in a caring environment for thousands of Maine students. Deb Chase, Director of the Maine Afterschool Network, said,
“Proposed cuts to 21st CCLC programs will result in roughly 500 Maine children losing programs that are critical to their engagement and success in school – and for our lowest-income, lowest performing students….For some this is their sole source of food during the school day and during the summer.”

“Students would not have safe places to go after school, and we know that risky behaviors are most likely to occur between the times of 3-6 pm.”

“For parents who rely on their jobs to make ends meet, the need for School Age programming can make or break their ability to stay above water financially, as well as their ability to perform at work and minimize the need for child-related time off. For youth preparing for their futures, the afterschool programs can provide a transformational step toward career and college readiness.”

Speaking to the need for quality early care and education, Peter Lindsey, Director of Community Impact and Success By 6 at United Way of Mid Coast Maine, briefly reviewed the national research conducted over the last 20 years. He noted the important skills that are formed early in life, and he underscored the economic benefits of investing in early childhood—higher educational attainment and lower rates of social problems, such as teenage pregnancy and welfare dependency.  Lindsey said, “Our local United Way supports early literacy efforts, parent education and supports, and quality and affordable child care.…The prospective loss of funding for the Child Care [and] Development Block Grant undermines these efforts.”

“The proposed budget cuts go against the growing body of national research that shows how…critical those first years are for laying a strong foundation. With a solid foundation formed early in life, Maine children and families will thrive, and Maine’s and our nation’s economies also will thrive.”

Jean Bridges, Director of Child Development, Penquis, Bangor, also decried proposed cuts to Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care programs, saying “Prevention is much more cost effective than remediation after lives have derailed. Research reinforces that for every $1 spent on a high quality Head Start and Early Head Start, $7 dollars are saved in social service costs for unemployment, crime, special education, grade retention and teen pregnancies as young children reach adulthood.” With over 850 Maine children affected by these cuts, another 297 adults affected by Head Start and Early Head Start jobs lost, and some 900 families out of work or training opportunities because of the loss of child care subsidies, Bridges concluded her remarks by saying, “As a State and Nation, there is no better time to be exceptionally careful in making policy decisions that support and strengthen our children and families—particularly those who are vulnerable.”

Amy LaFlamme, a 26-year-old single parent of two children ages 3 and 5, is a business student at SMCC. She hopes to open her own small business upon graduating. Child care assistance and programs like Parents as Scholars have allowed her to follow her dream. She said, “As part of the Parents as Scholars program, I depend on student loans, grants and assistance for my family budget. If I was not able to get the Pell grants and other resources, the less likely I am to continue with my education and begin to give back to the community financially. …If we want people working and for Maine to become more business friendly, we must continue to encourage and support continuing education.”

“I understand that the government needs to make cuts within the budget but I cannot stress how important childcare benefits have been with my being successful in moving towards being off of assistance.”

To read the entire press release, click here .

Click on one of the speakers’ names to see their remarks:  LaFlamme , Chase , Bridges , Lindsey

Finally, a chart detailing H.R.1 cuts is available here .