AUGUSTA — A $2.1 million bill to help low-income Maine parents pay their higher-education costs passed into law Tuesday without the signature of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

The LIFT Act, or an Act To Reduce Child Poverty by Leveraging Investments in Families Tomorrow, can be used by parents in households earning 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level, or about $46,000 a year for a family of four. The funds would be available to those who are eligible for, but do not receive, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits.

Eligible degree programs include those in health care, technology and engineering. The funds can also be used to pay for other postsecondary programs that result in a “high-value, industry-recognized certificate or similar credential.”

House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who sponsored the bill, says it is meant to help families out of poverty and address Maine’s workforce shortages by providing employers with qualified workers.

The law uses funds provided to Maine by the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant Act and is funded for the next three years, while being limited to 500 participants each year.

The bill received broad bipartisan support in both houses of the Legislature.

“This legislation is squarely aimed at ensuring that every Mainer can provide for their families,” Gideon said in a statement. “When people can make ends meet, it helps families while growing the economy. At the same time, it will increase the numbers of higher skilled workers badly needed by Maine’s employers and our economy.”

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