For Immediate Release
March 12, 2021
Timely local data will help inform Legislature’s upcoming budget decisions on child care funding
LANSING—As the COVID-19 crisis persists, child care remains a concern for Michigan’s economy and child care providers as well as the working families they rely on. Michigan must tackle the issues of access, affordability and provider support if the state is to successfully recover.
A report from the Michigan League for Public Policy released today, Child Care Financing Reform: A Critical Next Step for Michigan Families and the Economy, shows that the current financing system isn’t enough to support child care providers, parents or children, and unlike public school, is not funded by the state apart from inadequate subsidies for families with low wages. For a family at the state median income level ($57,054), the cost of child care in a center for one infant accounts for 19% of their income ($10,861), often exceeding the expenses of mortgages, rental payments and college costs.
“Child care is essential for parents to be able to work, but too many families around the state don’t have the financial resources necessary to afford it,” Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy said. “And at the same time, child care providers also have been struggling to make a living and support themselves—long before COVID-19 increased the strain on the industry. Policymakers need to look at ways to invest more in both the supply and demand sides of child care, better supporting families and providers.”
In addition to the report, the League’s Kids Count in Michigan project released fact sheets on child care for the state and each of Michigan’s 83 counties. The fact sheets for each county include information on whether the county is a child care desert or has low capacity, and the number of young children living in poverty in the county.
“Even families that have the financial means to access high-quality child care don’t always have options available, and care for infants and toddlers is especially scarce,” Jacobs said. “Nearly half of all Michiganders live in child care deserts, and it’s a problem that’s prevalent in urban and rural areas alike. Communities made vulnerable by lower incomes and disinvestment—often due to racial segregation or geographic isolation—tend to have lower supply.”
In addition to the lack of affordability and accessibility of care for families, many child care workers are facing the same financial challenges as families seeking care. Child care providers often struggle to make ends meet, as they are some of the lowest paid professionals in the state.
The report and data show that the lack of equity in the child care system is the root of a growing problem. Child care workers are disproportionately women, many of color, and the report shows that Black and Latinx workers are paid less than their white peers in an already low-paying field. Reforming the child care system starts with addressing those inequities.
According to the report, Michigan had the second-lowest income eligibility threshold for child care in the country leading into the COVID-19 pandemic. It was raised to 150% of the poverty level in January 2021, but the state still falls far behind the national median of 188%. In her 2022 budget proposal, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed temporarily raising the child care subsidy eligibility level to 200% of poverty, and has also called for an increase in rates paid by the state to child care providers.
In the past, Michigan dedicated so few resources to child care that millions of dollars of unspent funds were returned to the federal government to be redistributed to other states. According to the report, Michigan is also at the bottom of the list of states for Federal Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) funds for child care. In 2021, $12 million in TANF dollars was dedicated to child care, the first investment since 2011.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on opportunity for all. Its mission is to advance economic security, racial equity, health and well-being for all people in Michigan through policy change. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.
The Kids Count in Michigan project, https://mlpp.org/kids-count/, is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Ruth Mott Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center, www.datacenter.kidscount.org.
Think Babies Michigan is a prenatal-to-three policy collaborative of over 1,300 parents, advocates and organizations across the state working to make Michigan a top state to have a baby and raise a child.
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