Last Thursday, a package of bills focused on improving access to quality, affordable child care were signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. These bipartisan bills, led by your Grand Rapids Chamber and a coalition of partners, cleared the House and Senate with overwhelming majorities.
House Bills 5041 through 5048 address much needed common sense regulatory reforms, as well as provide targeted supply building into the child care system. Through this legislation, providers overseeing non-toddler and non-infant youths would see their staff-to-child ratio expand, opening additional spots for families. The ratio increases are only permitted with strict standards, and are fully revocable, allowing the state to crack down on bad actors. The package also addresses commonsense regulations by allowing a 90-day grace period for implementing new mandates and permits an electronic option for sharing safety records. Moreover, the bills provide a path for providers to operate in a multi-use building, expanding on available locations that facilities can operate safely.
This legislative package also seeks to boost the supply of child care providers through the creation of the Family Child Care Network, which will provide business support, peer connection, and other operational supports that are critical to owning and operating a safe child care setting. Lastly, this legislation requires the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to develop a contract model for infant and toddler child care providers that can be funded within the Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant requirements, increasing access for more families.
“By addressing commonsense regulatory barriers faced by providers and focusing on boosting the supply of care, these bills are a big step in the right direction and are a much-needed relief mechanism for the child care crisis we face in Michigan,” said Nate Henschel, Director of Government Affairs at the Grand Rapids Chamber. “The Grand Rapids Chamber has been working to improve the child care system for years when our members knew this was a huge barrier for their workforce. We are pleased to see our hard work pay off and are thankful that the Governor and Legislature saw the need for action.”
An estimated 44% of Michigan residents live in a child care desert, where the ratio of children under 5 years old is more than three times the number of licensed child care spots available. This was despite 87% of providers being open for business as of January 2021. Overall, lack of access to child care or the ability to afford care remains as one of the largest barriers to employment in Michigan.
“Child care is a top priority for our members, and we appreciate the legislature and Governor taking additional steps to address this issue,” said Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber. “As we’ve seen, access to child care is a critical foundation of our workforce, and we know it’s one of the largest barriers to employment. The Grand Rapids Chamber was proud to support these bills and we look forward to continuing to advance policies that will help increase both supply and access to affordable, quality child care in Michigan.”
The legislation signed by Governor Whitmer is being praised, but there is more work to be done moving forward.
“Access to quality, affordable child care is critical if we want to see our children succeed and business community thrive, and it must continue to be a top priority in our policy making process” said Donna Lowry, President & CEO of Ready for School. “We applaud the legislature, Governor and the Grand Rapids Chamber for their work on these bills, among other child care policies, which will help expand access and encourage more providers across the state,” she added. “While this is a step in the right direction, more work is needed in early child development. We look forward to working with the Grand Rapids Chamber and all involved to further this critical endeavor.”
For more information or to get involved in the chamber’s child care work, contact Nate Henschel, Director of Government Affairs, at Nate@grandrapids.org