MICHIGAN — According to a report by the Center for American Progress, the annual cost of childcare is now $16,000 per year as we begin to slowly emerge from the pandemic. This high cost has led more parents to make the choice to leave the workforce just as the labor market needs more workers.
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan that allocated $39 billion to states to support access to childcare for essential workers with $1.4 billion of that earmarked for Michigan. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has consistently called for the release of these funds but the decision is ultimately that of the Michigan’s Republican-led legislature. To date, the legislature has not voted to release the dollars allocated.
This had led to many would be workers choosing to stay home because either the cost of care is too expensive or access to quality care not available in their area. Meanwhile, businesses continue to struggle to find workers and get their businesses back to normal. While the legislature took action to eliminate additional unemployment for those struggling to find work, the bill would not take affect until after the program expired and experts say the extra money is not the cause of workers not returning to the workforce.
The inaction by the legislature leaves childcare providers, employers and parents waiting for a solution to Michigan’s broken childcare program and a real solution to Michigan’s labor shortage. Meanwhile, both Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth have the legislature out on vacation.
Some states are leading on childcare using their American Rescue Plan dollars to reward facilities and workers for their work, provide relief for parents struggling with costs and providing incentives to workers who find jobs. For Michigan, these states show that it’s possible to use childcare dollars to think creatively about how to get children the care they need while supporting workers and businesses to get Michigan’s job market back on track.