Fed funds to boost child care, vaccines

Posted April 09, 2009, at 11:32 p.m.

Another $7.6 million in federal economic recovery money is headed to Maine, aimed at increasing access to child care for working parents and improving vaccine compliance in adults and children.

In a statement released Thursday by the White House, Vice President Joe Biden said an adequate supply of high-quality child care options is essential to keeping parents in the jobs they have or finding new ones if they are laid off.

“Safe, affordable, high-quality child care gives working parents the peace of mind they need to be stable, dependable employees,” Biden said in the announcement. Almost $6,758,000 of the new funding will be targeted for child care programming, including allotments for Maine’s federally recognized American Indian tribes.

The Aroostook Band of Micmacs is slated to receive $8,187; the Houlton Band of Maliseets will receive $9,693; the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township will receive $11,527; the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point will receive $13,295; and the Penobscot Nation will receive $13,295.

“Many Mainers are struggling in this economy to meet the escalating costs of child care services,” 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said in a statement Thursday. “This one-time appropriation will help many families go to work or seek employment while ensuring their children receive high-quality care.”

The federal funding also was praised by Republican U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine.

“Rising health care costs are also a heavy burden for working families to bear,” Snowe said. “This funding will support child care services for families and will go a long way to ensure a healthy and bright future for Maine’s children.”

Collins, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will be host for a series of hearings, along with the committee’s chairman, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, to examine how the federal government will account for the billions of dollars expected to be spent over the next two years as a result of the economic stimulus package.

In addition to the child care funds, about $914,000 is headed for Maine’s immunization program to pay for vaccines and educational outreach to encourage compliance with federal vaccine recommendations for adults and children.

Dr. Dora Anne Mills, head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday that the money most likely will be used to increase the number of Maine youngsters who receive the annual influenza vaccine, perhaps through school clinics.

New federal recommendations say most children from 6 months to 18 years of age should get a flu vaccine every year, Mills said, but in 2008 fewer than 25 percent of that population in Maine were immunized.

While compliance in Maine with other vaccine recommendations is dropping — for routine childhood illnesses such as whooping cough, mumps, measles, polio and other viral diseases — Mills said the one-time federal funds must be used to increase vaccine rates for children without any insurance coverage for vaccines. In Maine, she said that group is more likely to go without the annual flu vaccine than without other immunizations, which typically are provided as part of routine well-child visits.

The vaccine funds should be available this summer, Mills said, in time to organize children-oriented flu vaccine clinics, purchase vaccine supplies, and launch an educational campaign.

mhaskell@bangordailynews.net

990-8291

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