AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child and Family Services has announced that the Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program, part of Gov. Mills’ Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, has launched the second phase of grant-making for costs associated with new construction of child care centers and expansion of existing child care providers.

Announced in July, the program will provide a total $15 million investment to help child care businesses launch or expand, according to DHHS.

The Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program, which uses federal funding through the American Rescue Plan, will help Maine people open child care businesses in their homes, transform existing buildings into quality child care spaces, and construct new child care facilities.

Existing child care providers can also use the funding to expand the number of children they serve. Priority is given to sites in rural areas that care for infants and toddlers, and participate in the child care subsidy program.

The Office of Child and Family Services is administering the Child Care Infrastructure Grant Program through a partnership with Brunswick-based Coastal Enterprises Inc. The funding may be used for new construction, renovations, outdoor spaces, indoor furniture and fixtures, educational materials and working capital.

Applications are open to those building or expanding a child care facility. Sole proprietors, partnerships, cooperatives, nonprofit organizations and employers are eligible to apply for a grant covering up to 50% of their start-up costs. Existing child care providers seeking an additional license are also eligible to apply. Applicants renovating an existing building may request up to 50% of their start-up costs up to $80,000. Those constructing a new building are eligible for up to 50% of their start-up costs, up to $250,000. First-round applications are being accepted  through Sept. 30.

The first phase of grant-making to support new family or home-based child care businesses opened July 6 to encourage new providers in Maine’s rural areas. To date, 63 providers have applied for grants. Applications for that program are being accepted through May 2023. Home-based child care businesses may apply for 75% of their start-up costs, up to $8,500. New family child care businesses licensed by Sept. 30, 2023, are also eligible for a one-time $2,000 stipend.