Public Policy Update
One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it prompted policy changes that benefit young children and their families. This is particularly true in the area of child care, where the fragility of the system was illuminated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many child care providers closed the doors of their small business for good and we saw many parents leave the workforce citing a lack of quality child care.
Michigan is using federal COVID-relief funds to invest $1.4 billion in early care and education (ECE). The state budget, approved with bipartisan support in November, makes care more affordable for families, provides additional pay and support to ECE providers, and expands eligibility for public subsidy to pay for ECE. The changes to the qualifications for subsidy mean 105,000 additional young children across the state can qualify for no- or low-cost child care.
While early childhood advocates celebrated the increased investments, they also cautioned it is one-time, temporary funding. A primary focus going forward will be on demonstrating the positive impact of the investments – to children, families, employers, and the economy – with the goal of creating long-term, sustainable policy changes.
"This relief is coming not a moment too soon – the $1.4 billion will be a lifeline to the child care providers who were struggling to make ends meet even before the pandemic. These funds will make it possible to stabilize not only the child care industry, but will help bring Michigan parents back into the workforce, which will in turn help alleviate pressures on our economy overall. Thanks to the Governor and State legislators for negotiating a deal that puts families first.” - Annemarie Valdez, First Steps Kent President