In this Oct. 25, 2021, file photo, Amy McCoy serves lunch to preschoolers at her Forever Young Daycare facility in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. Credit: Elaine Thompson / AP

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Aside from its $1.7 trillion price tag — with a Congressional Budget Office estimate suggesting its true cost is as high as nearly $5 trillion if its policies are made permanent — the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan has some concerning provisions that would only worsen the child care crisis in Maine.

The plan excludes a longstanding religious exemption for faith-based child care providers and threatens to close such centers across the country. If passed, the bill will reclassify faith-based providers as direct funding recipients. This would mean that those providers, if they want to receive federal funding, would be subject to non-discrimination provisions currently exempted under the Child Care and Development Block Grant program.

Maine has lost 187 licensed child care providers since April 2020 due to the shutdowns and pandemic-related staffing shortages since. This has led to parents being put on long waiting lists — if they’re even lucky enough — or unable to work altogether. President Joe Biden’s plan would make it worse by forcing faith-based child care providers to either disavow their own beliefs or religion to follow non-discrimination policies, or lose their funding.

Faith-based providers would also be subject to the bill’s Head Start non-discrimination provisions that apply to all child care and universal prekindergarten programs, regardless of whether the provider even offers such a program. This overarching provision strips away any religious protections providers have in offering faith-based programming.

Removing the exemptions protecting religious liberties will undoubtedly force faith-based child care providers out of federal funding. It’s obvious to me that the plan’s Democratic architects knew exactly what they were doing. Unfortunately, parents would be the victims here, and religious liberty would be the casualty.

Sen. Stacey Guerin