There’s a great deal of discussion surrounding the reasons that there are so many job vacancies right now at a time when unemployment levels are high. No matter how you analyze it, however, there is simply no getting around the fact that, along with wages that haven’t kept up with the cost of living, it’s lack of available, affordable, reliable childcare that is the overriding cause.
In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Michigan legislature passed an omnibus budget this past week that will transform the lives of tens of thousands of children and their families.
Here are some of the amazing things this effort does (courtesy of Chalkbeat Detroit):
- $700 million in stabilization grants, which will go directly to child care providers to cover costs and help them stay open.
- $108 million to increase income eligibility for the child care subsidy program to 185% of the poverty level from 150% through fall 2023, after which it will drop to 160% of poverty.
- $36.5 million to contract with providers who care for infants and toddlers. Care for the youngest children is in short supply, in part because it is expensive — an adult can only legally care for 3 or 4 infants at a time. Through contracts — as opposed to biweekly reimbursement — the state can provide more stable funding.
- $100 million to help open new child care centers in areas where there aren’t enough early childhood classrooms and to expand existing centers.
- $158 million to increase reimbursement rates by 30% for providers who participate in the child care subsidy program.
- $222 million to further boost reimbursement rates on a temporary basis. Rates will increase an additional 50% for 6 months, 40% for the next 6 months, and 30% until the funds are used up.
- $30 million to pay child care workers a $1,000 bonus.
Including money to increase the pay of child care workers is something that is crucially needed. Child care, simply put, is expensive as hell. But, ironically, child care workers themselves are some of the most underpaid people who work in American society. Given that we are trusting these people with the lives of our children for many hours each week, it’s a lopsided economic model that is simply not sustainable.
This $1.4 billion child care package will impact as many as 105,000 kids not currently covered and will pave the way for Michigan to lead the country in returning to economic stability in the post-COVID-19 world.
Given that our state typically precedes the rest into bad economic times and lags the others coming out of them, this is an entirely refreshing change.
[Images credit: Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages]