Ask your Candidates: Child Care


Those in the industry agree there is no market solution – families can’t afford to pay more, and the labor-intensive industry can’t cut costs. Instead, more money is needed to attract and retain talented teachers and caregivers. Experts say meaningful change can only come with significant and sustained public investment (Normal). 

Subsidy increases were passed to help more families afford child care. Yet, not all providers take subsidy payments. What would propose to increase the amount of providers who take subsidies in Kent County?

Even when all providers are open, quality child care can be hard to find. An estimated 44% of Michiganders live in child care deserts. A child care desert is when the ratio of children ages 0-5 to the number of licensed child care spots is greater than 3. Only one county in the state had enough spots for children in 2020.2. Kent County is at low capacity (MLPP, 2020). Many providers in Kent County have expressed that they are struggling to keep their doors open. 

Given the large number of struggling providers who need assistance to stay open, how would you support our child care providers? 

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) gave states and localities unprecedented funds in the wake of COVID. Kent County alone received $127,605,800 million dollars and the city of Grand Rapids received $92,279,500 million dollars (Senate Fiscal Agency). Other municipalities received money as well, you can view those amounts starting at page 15 here. These funds can be used to provide premium pay to eligible workers. Some municipalities have already spent some of the funds, while others are still deciding what to do. The county has been getting feedback from residents. 

In what ways will you support using ARPA dollars to help the child care crisis in Kent County?

State (From Think Babies)

Despite recent increases in income eligibility, the state’s subsidy system isn’t reaching all eligible families, and the current subsidy isn’t financially feasible for child care providers either. State reimbursement rates don’t cover the cost of providing care and pay based on attendance, which makes it difficult to accept subsidies and forces providers to turn low- and moderate-income families away or take a loss to already low margins. Michigan’s subsidy reimbursement rates fall well below the 75th percentile of market rates in the US, 44% below for preschoolers and 34% below for infants and toddlers. Low reimbursement rates disincentivize provider participation. About 41% of providers are currently caring for children with subsidies, and 11% will not serve families receiving subsidies.

What would you do to ensure that the child care subsidy program is utilized fully by families and Providers?

How would you address the issues of child care access and affordability in Michigan?

Finding child care is often difficult for families, in part, because providers struggle with recruiting and retaining staff who are needed to serve at their licensed capacity level. Child care workers are woefully under-compensated–often qualifying for public assistance themselves–making it difficult for them to stay and grow in the profession. The median wage for child care workers in the state was $11.13 in 2019—placing them among the lowest wage earners in Michigan.

Child care is crucial for families, but it is also crucial to maintain stable businesses and communities. Parents need access to high-quality child care to be able to fill vital roles in the workplace, and given today’s economic climate, communities, and businesses must work to retain talented individuals.

How would you help grow this critical workforce needed by thousands of Michigan families and make child care an in-demand career path?

Tri-Share is a public/private partnership that equally shares the cost of child care between employers, employees, and the state of Michigan. The program has expanded to 57 counties across Michigan. This program was created by a coalition of partners to address funding, accessibility, and affordability.  (Grand Rapids Chamber). 

How will you continue to support the Tri-Share program and increase employee participation? 

For more state child care priorities, please visit Making Michigan a Top State to Have and Raise a Baby


While ultimately not passed and signed into law, President Biden’s Build Back Better plan proposed “providing funding to cover the federal share of the cost of a voluntary, free universal pre-K (UPK) program for all children, regardless of income or other eligibility requirements, in a variety of settings” (Guarino, 2021).

Since BBB was not enacted how would you propose addressing the child care crisis?

For tips on engaging with your candidate, please check out  Think Babies’ tips!