Childcare, Children — October 14, 2021 at 11:45 am

A transformative, bipartisan package of bills to improve child care in Michigan advances


While a small cohort of extremist, conservative Michigan legislators is grabbing headlines with their incessant, almost childish rehash of the 2020 election nearly a year later, a bipartisan package of legislation passed the House of Representatives last week that will radically transform how we deliver child care in our state.

The package of eight bills – two introduced by Democrats and six by Republicans – passed last week with overwhelming support. Coming on the heels of $1.4 billion of childcare investments in the recently-passed state budget, these bills are an additional investment that will give parents the peace of mind they need to return to the workforce. Lack of access to affordable child care is one of the top reasons many parents cite when deciding whether or not to go back to work as we slowly emerge from a year and a half of COVID-19 scariness.

Here’s a brief synopsis of the eight bills, much of which is taken from the excellent reporting by Scott McClallen at The Center Square:

House Bill 5041 (Sponsor: Jack O’Malley, Republican)
Modifies the adult-to-child ratio for in-home child care providers by raising the limit from 1-6 staff members per minor child to 1-7 staff members per minor child for some eligible homes.

House Bill 5042 (Sponsor: Greg VanWoerkom, Republican)
Modifies licensing requirements for a child care center, group child care home, or family to require disclosure of ownership interests. If one center received violations, it couldn’t change its name and switch buildings to rid those violations.

House Bill 5043 (Sponsor: Kelly Breen, Democrat)
Creates a new act to require the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to establish, upon appropriation, family child care networks for home-based child care providers in every region of the state. That framework would provide connection to peers, business, operations, and program quality support, as well as training and technical assistance. Rep. Breen said of her bill, “There is a critical day care shortage, especially for families with infants or toddlers. Home providers offer the same excellent care as a regular day care center but with fewer staff members. This bill will simplify some of the red tape home day care providers need to traverse to be in compliance with state regulations and allow them to return their focus to taking care of the kids. I am proud that both sides of the aisle were dedicated to joining together for the good of the people.”

House Bill 5044 (Sponsor: Ranjeev Puri, Democrat)
Requires MDE to create a regional infant-toddler contract for child care providers funded within the federal child care and development block grant requirements. Contracts would have to be awarded to high-quality providers where MDE determines the demand for infant and toddler child care exceeds supply. Rep. Puri explained his bill by saying, “Providing affordable child care that allows parents to work — especially working mothers who have been unable to return to the workforce following the pandemic, and fairly compensates hard-working child care providers is essential. HB 5044 would create an infant-toddler contract model that incentivizes increased wages and quality improvements in care. As the father to two small boys, I know firsthand how expensive child care is, and the financial impact it takes on Michigan families. This package is a big step in the right direction in making childcare more accessible and affordable for our working families and I am excited to continue the work that lies ahead.”

House Bill 5045 (Sponsor: Rodney Wakeman, Republican)
Revises the information held by a child care database. Under the bill, databases would have to include the number and nature of any LARA facility special investigations. If passed, state agencies would follow the federal law on penalties: if a facility gets a complaint and that complaint is dismissed, the charge goes away from the daycare’s record after three years.

House Bill 5046 (Sponsor: Gregory Markkanen, Republican)
Gives a child care center at least 90 days to comply with newly-established rules unless there is an immediate federal obligation or an immediate risk to health and safety. It designates the Department of Health and Human Services and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to be responsible for developing and communicating rules, as well as establishing an ad hoc committee for each type of child organization.

House Bill 5047 (Sponsor: Julie Calley, Republican)
Requires an operator of a child care center to maintain licensing records on the premises. If internet access was available at the facility, LARA’s online database could provide the records.

House Bill 5048 (Sponsor: John Roth, Republican)
Allows child care facilities to be located in a multiple occupancy facility.

In a demonstration of how much this package of bills crosses the political divide, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, no bastion of progressive ideology, has come out in support, acknowledging that passing these bills would be a major step toward getting Michigan back to work:

The Chamber voiced its support for both the legislative package and the appropriation. We believe solving the childcare issue can help break down a key barrier to employability and help employers fill their talent pipeline.

The bill now heads to the state senate. If you support this legislative package, now would be a good time to contact your senator to let them know. You can find contact information HERE.