Childcare Reform Efforts
While Michigan’s business community has grappled with a historic labor shortage, chambers like ours have been working overtime to identify and promote policy changes that will eliminate any and all barriers to re-entering the workforce. One commonly cited barrier, both pre- and post-pandemic, has been the lack of access to affordable childcare in our state.
Research has shown that a stunning 75% of children in Michigan live in areas with limited access to child care. This supply/demand imbalance has led to unaffordable prices for parents who do have access, leading thousands of couples to run a budget calculation that all too often determines it is actually cheaper for one parent to drop out of the workforce altogether than it is to pay a provider. The result of both is a childcare crisis that not only hurts growing families, but exacerbates the labor crisis many of our businesses find themselves in today.
For that reason, and as the Voice for Business in the region, we are proud to throw our support behind House Bills 5041 – 5048, a bipartisan package of bills seeking to expand access to quality, affordable childcare services throughout the State of Michigan. These bills intend to achieve this through the series of regulatory reforms detailed below:
- HB 5041: Modifies the adult-to-child ratio for in-home child care providers. Specific criteria must be met by these centers to guarantee that these expansions are done in a responsible, but effective manner. This change will come at no cost to state or local governments, yet will have a tremendous impact on access – particularly in rural communities across Southwest Michigan.
- HB 5042: Modifies licensing requirements for a childcare center, group child care home, or family child care home to require a disclosure of ownership interests. This prevents a center from simply changing its name and switching buildings in order to rid itself of previous violations.
- HB 5043: Creates an entirely new act that requires the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to establish a “Family Child Care Network” for home-based childcare providers in every region of the state. Services available to providers through this new network will include access to coaching, training and professional development, connections, operational support, data collection, and other business services.
- HB 5044: Requires MDE to create a regional infant-toddler contract for childcare providers funded within the federal childcare and development block grant requirements. Contracts would have to be awarded to providers in all regions of the State and to high-quality providers located in communities where demand for infant and toddler child care exceeded supply as determined by the MDE.
- HB 5045: Amends 1973 PA 116, known as the child care licensing act, to revise information that must be included in a database concerning certain child care providers licensed under the act.
- HB 5046: Affords a child care center at least 90 days to comply with any new rule promulgated under the child care licensing act, unless there is superceding Federal obligation or immediate risk to health and safety.
- HB 5047: Modernizes recordkeeping requirements to allow operators to maintain licensing records and provide access to its licensing notebook through LARA’s electronic database of licensing records if internet access is available on the premises.
- HB 5048: Creates a safe path for providers to locate in multi-use buildings to expand access to where families live and work.
“Access to care is a huge issue for many families,” said state Rep. John Roth, lead sponsor of HB 5048. “Many hard-working people cannot find care for their children due to a lack of available providers or providers being at capacity. People face difficult choices as a result, such as having to take time away from their job or leaving the workforce completely. They shouldn’t be forced into these choices, and these plans shore up availability while strengthening the child-care industry as a whole.”
We agree. These bills will alleviate issues with access and affordability for many families, while also providing more flexibility and resources to those who actually own and run child care centers; a win-win. Thankfully, this is an area where legislators across the aisle are finding common ground as well.
House Bills 5041-5048 passed the Michigan House of Representatives late last year with wide, bipartisan support. In the last few weeks, it has cleared the Michigan Senate’s Economic and Small Business Development Committee and, as of writing this article, is awaiting a full vote on the Senate Floor. We are among the chorus of voices calling for that final vote to come this week, and for Governor Whitmer to sign the package into law shortly thereafter.
After all, Michigan’s childcare crisis has gone on long enough. It is time to move forward with reforms that allow parents across the state to re-enter the workforce without setting their family back financially.