Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and GOP lawmakers Tuesday unveiled an eight-bill bipartisan plan to improve child-care access and quality, as well as lower its cost in Michigan.
“This is just the beginning,” Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer welcomed the package.
“Working families have long relied on child care to support early development and to make their lives work,” Whitmer said. “COVID has been a reminder that child care is truly essential to our economy.”
Whitmer said data shows that child care is the single biggest monthly expense for lower-income, working families with children.
On Monday, Whitmer released her own $1.4 billion plan to increase child-care access. However, these plans are separate.
“Families need these services – but they have become tougher to find and they are taking up a bigger chunk of budgets,” O’Malley said. “These proposals work to reverse these concerning trends for hardworking people. The current system in place is not working for our families.”
Reforms include letting child-care providers work in multi-use buildings such as strip malls, sharing some health records online, and enhanced reporting requirements.
“As a working mother of two young children, I have firsthand experience struggling to find quality and affordable child care,” Rep. Kelly Breen, D-Novi, a bill sponsor, said. “Michigan’s child-care situation isn’t – and has never been – sustainable, and we are working together to make a difference for hardworking families.”
Rep. Ranjeev Puri, D-Canton, said the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated pre-existing child-care problems that disproportionately affected women. As a result, nearly 3 million women nationwide left the labor force in 2020.
Puri has two small children in child care, which she said costs nearly $25,000 per year.
“This is entirely unsustainable and a big problem,” Puri said.
The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce welcomed the news.
“We have been a long-time advocate for child care, seeing it as both an early education and workforce development legislative issue,” Director of Government Alexa Kramer said. “This critical legislation seeks to address common-sense regulatory reform and targeted supply building. Child care is a top priority for our businesses, and we thank Rep. O’Malley for his leadership along with Governor Whitmer on her dedication to this business issue.”
State research says 75% of children in Michigan live in areas with limited access to child care. Also, 10 Michigan counties don’t currently have licensed slots at centers that serve children younger than 30 months.
The bill package aims to cut red tape and use federal stimulus money to lure back providers to increase the supply and drop the cost of child care even when the stimulus is depleted.
“The key takeaway here today is all those parents, all those providers need to know we hear them and we’re actually doing something,” O’Malley said.
The bills are expected to be introduced this week.
This article was originally posted on Whitmer, lawmakers push plan to improve childcare