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We need better child care and we need it as soon as possible

Even during the COVID-19 crisis, child care remains a concern. It has ramifications for Michigan’s economy, child care providers and the working families on which they rely.

A recently released report from the Michigan League for Public Policy titled “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.

The MLPP said the system isn’t funded by the state apart from what it calls “inadequate” subsidies for families with low wages.

“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, MLPP president and CEO, said in a statement. “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.”

She believe policymakers need to look at ways to invest more in the supply and demand sides of child care.

The league’s Kids Count in Michigan project also 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, plus the number of young children living in poverty in the county.

With high costs primarily put on parents, fewer options exist for families with low and middle incomes. Regarding children up to age 5 in Marquette County, 19% live below the poverty level. A total of 16% live between 100% and 200% of the poverty level, while 38% live between 200% and 400% of the poverty level. A total of 27% live above 400% of the poverty level.

An estimated 44% of Michiganders live in child care deserts, defined as when the ratio of children up to age 5 to the number of licensed child care spots is greater than three. Marquette County has 1.9 kids per spot.

The report also indicated that care is even harder to find for infants and toddlers. In 2020, only about two in three providers offered care for infants, with the average cost of care for infants and toddlers remaining high. In Marquette County, the average monthly cost for infant and toddler care was $813 and $748, respectively. This compares with the Michigan averages of $708 and $683, respectively.

Michigan Public/Private Partnerships collaborative 2022 state budget priorities for child care include new child care funding to communities with the greater need to expand high-quality care for infants and toddlers.

Another priority is to include increasing child care subsidy reimbursement rates for all providers and raising initial child care eligibility to 185% of poverty.

Other goals are to form staffed family child care networks and shared services solutions, support statewide socioemotional consultants to support child care providers and require a child care system financing plan to ensure all available state and federal funds are spent.

Each year in a child’s life is crucial, which means adequate care is necessary to help youngsters mature to mentally and physically healthy adults. An investment in child care now will go a long way to ensuring a more stable future for Michigan.

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