The State of Michigan announced last month that it intends to spend $100M in the next two years to fund as many as 1,000 new childcare centers. A new program will make funds available beginning in fall 2022. Caring for MI Future will provide more than $50M in grants to existing childcare centers. The money will fund renovations and upgrades to facilities to ensure that they meet licensing requirements.
Another $23M from the same program will provide startup funding new daycare businesses. The state will make an additional $11M in grants available to childcare operators to recruit, develop and retain childcare workers. Finally, the remainder of the funds will subsidize market assessments, business plans, location analyses, and compliance with local zoning ordinances.
The Caring for MI Future program aims to jump start the state’s childcare industry, which the pandemic decimated. The state estimates that Michigan may have lost as many as 10,000 childcare workers. That loss has created a critical shortage of daycare providers, which in turn makes it difficult for parents to work. According to state data, nearly half of all Michigan communities lack adequate childcare facilities.
The Whitmer administration points to Michigan’s above-average unemployment rate as evidence that the lack of childcare is a barrier to workforce reentry. Currently, Michigan’s labor participation rate is lower than that in neighboring states and is in the bottom 20% nationally. This is especially true of women with school-age children. Early in the pandemic, three times as many women with school-age children exited the workforce compared to similarly situated men. This group has been slow to return to the workforce, largely because affordable, local childcare is unavailable.
Rebuilding Michigan’s childcare industry
As it turns out, lack of affordable, available childcare is a major problem. If the Children’s Center at Washtenaw Community College was underutilized before the pandemic, it would certainly be full now – if it still existed.
But for the convenience of the WCC administration, there was no reason to close the Children’s Center. If profit-making were truly the unstated goal of its operation, the WCC Administration could have made the Children’s Center profitable by making the center’s services more widely available. Absent that, WCC could have found additional funding to subsidize the Center’s operation.
Unfortunately, the opportunity for WCC to be part of the restart of the childcare industry in Michigan has been severely damaged by the short-sighted and self-serving decisions of the WCC administration.
Truthfully, when you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Photo Credit: Kids Work Chicago Daycare, via Flickr