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Whitmer pitches $1.4 billion plan making Michigan child care more affordable

daycare
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continued her push to make child care more affordable to Michigan families Monday with a $1.4 billion proposal. (Bridge file photo)

July 1: Michigan child care providers left in lurch as lawmakers go on vacation

Seizing what she called “an opportunity to make historic, lasting investments in child care,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a proposal on Monday to invest $1.4 billion in federal child care funding to make taking care of kids more affordable for working parents in Michigan.

At a press conference at a child care center in Troy, Whitmer announced plans to increase access to childcare, arguing doing so would accelerate the state’s economic growth and returning to work efforts.

“Every family in Michigan deserves to have access to safe, affordable quality child care that meets their needs,” Whitmer said. “Our state’s economic recovery depends on us getting this right.” 

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Michigan receives close to $250 million annually from the federal government to fund child care measures. Federal stimulus passed in December and March allocated an additional $1.4 billion  for the state to spend on child care, providing six times the state’s usual resources to go toward the initiative.

Under Whitmer’s proposal, the state would make more parents eligible to receive low-cost or free childcare by increasing the income eligibility requirement for a family of four from 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($39,300) to 200 percent ($53,000). That income eligibility increase would make about 150,000 additional Michigan children eligible for free or low-cost child care.

The plan also calls for increasing the pay of child care professionals and providing funding to support child care providers.

Whitmer has proposed several spending measures that would make use of the $6.5 billion in federal funding that took the state from expecting a $3 billion deficit to having a $3.5 billion surplus. Her Economic Jumpstart Plan includes proposals to increase the state minimum wage to $15 an hour, fund free community college and job training programs, and other grants for businesses.

Any proposal to spend federal dollars in the budget will likely require approval from the Legislature, and it is unclear if the GOP-led Senate and House will adopt the child care measure. State Republican lawmakers have expressed objections to using one-time funding in order to support new spending programs. GOP legislators previously said they would support the investments in childcare if the state stopped asking toddlers to wear a mask. House Republicans passed a bill in May that, if signed into law, would have prohibited Whitmer from spending the federal childcare funding through transferring it to departmental budgets.

Michigan House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, R-Lowell said Monday he was “encouraged” by Whitmer’s child care proposal.

“There is a fair amount of overlap between what the House approved earlier this spring and what the governor announced today, and there are also some differences to work through. I am confident we will find common ground to move forward and make a real difference helping Michigan families meet their child care needs.”

Child care can be a debilitating cost for working families in Michigan. Child care for an infant can cost more than tuition at the University of Michigan, with care sometimes surpassing $10,000 a year.

“We have a chance to make a generational investment that will impact future generations of Michiganders, allowing for parents to work and be even more productive and providing an environment that children can thrive in,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist.

U.S. Representative Haley Stevens (D-11) emphasized Whitmer’s childcare proposal was made possible through funding from the federal American Rescue Plan, calling it “the largest investment ever in the history of the United States for daycare and childcare in America.” Stevens said the plan would be critical to Michigan’s economic recovery.

“We are ready to get back to work, but it’s not possible unless we address this daycare challenge,” Stevens said.

In a statement on Monday, Matt Gillard, President and CEO of the children and family advocacy group Michigan’s Children, praised Whitmer’s childcare accessibility initiative and urged the legislature to support the plan.

“For far too long, Michigan has trailed behind other states when it comes to supporting investment in our child care system,” said Gillard. “Now is the time to create a brighter future for our state, our children, their parents, and the needs of our labor force and Michigan’s economy.”

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