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Democrats launch child care push

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Photos courtesy Bill Ferguson, Adrienne Jones
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Maryland’s House and Senate Democrats unveiled a roughly $100 million package Thursday they said in a virtual press conference was designed to shore up a child care system ravaged by the pandemic.

The bills would provide $16 million in retention and new hire bonuses for childcare workers, create specialized care for children with special needs and grants of up to $50,000 to help struggling childcare facilities stay afloat.

Sen. Katie Fry Hester, a Howard County Democrat, warned the state could lose a third of its childcare facilities “if we refuse to financially fund those who care for our children.”

“If we truly believe that our children are the future, we also need to ensure a livable wages for the providers who care for them,” she said.

Senate President Bill Ferguson acknowledged the cost was steep, but said the state, with its $4.6 billion surplus, could afford it.

“We are in a fortunate place to be able to invest resources in the things that matter the most,” he said. “The infrastructure for childcare is one of those important sectors that we have to bolster for Maryland's economy to rebound.”

Hearings for the bills will be scheduled over the next month.