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Investing more in childcare would make Michigan a stronger state


Investing more in childcare would make Michigan a stronger state

May 25, 2024 | 4:08 am ET
By Anne Kuhnen
Investing more in childcare would make Michigan a stronger state
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More than seven months after the expiration of $24 billion in federal funds that buoyed our country’s childcare sector during the pandemic, newly analyzed census data has underscored the critical need for stronger state-level investments in childcare to support struggling families and providers.

While at least 11 states and the District of Columbia have stepped in to provide significant new state funding for childcare in the aftermath of last fall’s funding cliff, Michigan is not counted among them. Families have fared far worse in states like Michigan that have not stepped in to provide this critical support, according to a new analysis by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) of Census Household Pulse Survey data.

Two Michigan lawmakers attend White House summit on childcare

NWLC’s analysis of the survey data found that the share of responding households with children under the age of 12 that reported a lack of childcare over the past four weeks jumped from 17.8% to 23.1% from fall 2023 to spring 2024 in the states without significant, additional investments in childcare. 

Here in Michigan, the share of responding households with children under 12 that reported childcare arrangement issues over the past four weeks climbed from 19.6% to 22.3% — a 14% increase — in that same time frame. By comparison, there was a smaller, not statistically significant increase in a lack of childcare in the states with stronger investments.

Additionally, among the Michigan households reporting childcare issues in the spring survey, 36% have cut work hours, 34% have taken unpaid leave, 31% have had to supervise their children while working and 26% have left a job as a result of childcare disruptions. Meanwhile, the NWLC’s analysis shows that the share of women respondents who wanted to work, but couldn’t because they were caring for a young child went down in the states providing significant new childcare funding, dropping from 45.3% to 31.9%. 

While another childcare funding cliff is looming, with more federal funding set to expire in September 2024, and affordable, high-quality childcare is still out of reach for far too many Michiganders, there are some exciting opportunities in the state budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2025 that would go a long way in helping to strengthen Michigan’s childcare sector. 

These include increased childcare subsidy reimbursement rates for providers, provider start-up/stabilization grants and a pilot that would allow childcare workers to be automatically eligible for childcare subsidies. Budget conversations are ongoing, but these are all promising proposed investments that the Michigan League for Public Policy and our partners support.

We can also ensure more families are able to access affordable, high-quality childcare by waiving family contributions for childcare subsidies and providing presumptive eligibility for families applying for childcare subsidies while their application is pending. Investing in efforts to improve childcare workforce recruitment and retention would also help to stabilize Michigan’s childcare system, while addressing the low wages that childcare workers receive. 

These workers are integral to nurturing, protecting and caring for Michigan’s babies and kids and yet they are among the lowest paid workers in the state, earning a median wage of less than $14 an hour (about $28,870 annually).

This matters for all of us. By one estimate, Michigan is losing out on an estimated $2.88 billion in annual economic activity, including $576 million in direct revenue impact, as a result of inaccessible, unaffordable childcare. Making childcare more affordable for families and ensuring providers have stable incomes will help parents remain in the workforce, benefiting our state’s economy, while also helping to bring down Michigan’s child poverty rate and provide our earliest learners with access to high-quality care.

In the face of federal inaction, investing additional state dollars in childcare is a smart, commonsense choice for Michigan. It would result in better outcomes for families and workers, brighter futures for our state’s kids and a stronger state for everyone.