Time for the Michigan Legislature to put money into youngster care suppliers

Charity Dean and Misti Rice, guest authors

Posted at 3:45 p.m. ET June 4, 2021


Last month, the Michigan Women’s Commission held our quarterly meeting the day before Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. As mothers of young children during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we shared ironic laughs at our remote work environments as we tried to keep our children calm during this public zoom meeting.

Dean of the charity (Photo: courtesy photo)

We don’t laugh anymore. Instead, we’re asking Michigan lawmakers to fully support working mothers by immediately donating additional funds to childcare. These funds are urgently needed to keep childcare open, to fairly compensate childcare professionals, and to make childcare more affordable for more working families.

Our commission conducted a survey in autumn 2020 to find out how families used childcare during the pandemic and what they expected to be post-pandemic childcare needs.

Michigan women shared what we felt ourselves: The pandemic is forcing families to make impossible choices. Many women reported either leaving their job to look after their children or relying on close family members or friends to look after their children with little or no compensation.

Mixed rice (Photo: courtesy photo)

While parents’ return to work has been slower than non-parents, women in our survey reported that changes to their childcare arrangements, including leaving work to care for their children, are temporary.

This leads to a new dilemma for mothers: Will there be enough childcare when they want to go back to work? Will it be safe and high quality? Will they be able to afford it? Granted, those were questions that working families asked themselves before the pandemic – but those answers seem to be even more important to family decisions today.

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Michigan lawmakers can help by investing in our childcare providers. Michigan has $ 1.4 billion from the federal government specifically to be spent on childcare. These funds must be used to meet five goals that are essential for the return of working parents, especially mothers.

  1. Keep childcare open. Childcare providers operate at low margins and need economic incentives to stay open.
  2. Make childcare more affordable for more families. Legislators should temporarily increase childcare allowance eligibility to 200 percent of the state poverty line (about $ 44,000 for a family of three) so that more working families have access to affordable or free care.
  3. Open up new childcare places. Even before the pandemic, many communities lacked high-quality childcare facilities. Legislators need to invest in entrepreneurs interested in opening home and inpatient care in communities where families cannot find the care they need.
  4. Recruit and retain top talent. We need skilled professionals to look after our children when we are at work and at school, but low wages and poor social benefits keep people from becoming early educators. Legislators must invest in childcare bonuses and affordable education.
  5. Innovate. These funds also include opportunities to test creative ways to solve the availability and affordability of child care problems in our state by investing in the bipartisan MI Tri-Share Child Care pilot program and the Child Care Innovation Fund.

This was one of the toughest years on record for Michigan women and mothers. Let’s work together to support them with actions that will alleviate their stresses and support their working families.

Charity Dean is Commissioner for the Michigan Women’s Commission and President and CEO of the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance. Misti Rice is the Commissioner for Michigan Women’s Commission and Executive Director of Government Affairs at Magna International.

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