Gov. Gretchen Whitmer May 20

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces May 20, 2021, she will lift many COVID-19 restrictions on June 1. 

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pitched spending $1.4 billion in federal funds to expand access and increase the quality of child care as well as boost child care worker retention rates.

“All families deserve access to quality child care that meets their needs, and the investments I’ve announced today will make child care more attainable and affordable for Michigan families,” Whitmer said in a statement. “My plan will support Michigan child care businesses and honor child care professionals by providing more financial support and security to providers.”

The plan aims to expand childcare spending above the $241.5 million Michigan receives annually in federal Child Development and Care program dollars through the following:

Make child care more affordable for families

  • Increase income eligibility from 150% of the federal poverty level (FPL), $39,300 annually for a family of four, to 200% or $53,000 annually for a family of four from August 1, 2021 – September 30, 2023, making low or no-cost child care available to an estimated 150,000 more children. After that, income eligibility would permanently increase to 160% FPL, $41,920 annually for a family of four.
  • Increase access to the child care subsidy for student parents enrolled in Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners for a year. Individual student parents will leave the program per the exit requirements.

Support for early educators

  • Offer premium pay for child care professionals with stipends paid quarterly from July 2021–September 2022.
  • Maintain mental health supports provided by infant and early childhood mental health consultants for children enrolled in child care.

Stabilize child care businesses

  • Raise child care subsidy rates by 20% for providers
  • Provide grants to all child care providers to help them remain open and serving Michigan families.

Expand childcare access 

  • Provide grants to new and expanding sites in communities without adequate child care

The proposal is the third Whitmer has pushed for within two weeks, including increasing early education spending ($405 million) and temporarily increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr ($300 million), as the state brainstorms how to spend a $3.5 billion surplus and roughly $6 billion in federal stimulus funds.

“Early childhood is a critical time for rapid brain growth and development and we are so glad Governor Whitmer understands the significance of this formative time,” Nicole Hamp, a medical doctor and early childhood liaison for the Michigan Chapter of the AAP, said in a statement.

“Pediatricians cannot emphasize enough the importance of the nurturing, engaging, safe and stable environments that early childcare programs provide for young children. Governor Whitmer’s plan to invest in our children and early childhood education is a huge step forward for our state."

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.