Improving the Child Care Sector Must be a Priority

Improving the Child Care Sector Must be a Priority

Throughout the course of my career, I’ve seen time and time again the importance of high-quality and accessible child care to our workforce. Working parents are the backbone of our economy. They make up a large portion of our workforce and play an invaluable role in ensuring businesses are operational and successful. Parents need child care to work. They need the reassurance that their children are in a safe and stimulating environment, getting the tools our youngest need to succeed in the short and long term. That peace of mind plays a critical role in making sure working parents are present and productive at work, which, in turn, makes the workplace a more positive and prosperous place.

Unfortunately, the child care system is not meeting working parents’ needs. In Michigan, infant care in a center averages $10,287 per year, nearly the cost for public college tuition. Additionally, nearly half of Michigan’s population live in a child care desert, or an area where demand for space in licensed child-care programs far outpaces local capacity, and only half of Michigan’s children eligible for subsidies are currently in care. Meanwhile, many of our most disadvantaged families do not qualify for state-supported quality care due to low eligibility rates for subsidies. These children and their families are disproportionately affected by the child care crisis.

These issues have only been exacerbated by the global health pandemic, straining the child care sector on both ends. The pandemic has led to the closure of many child-care providers, while also increasing pressure on many parents who must now work from home.

There is an enormous demand for high-quality and affordable child care for working families. Parents need these programs to go back to work, their families depend on their employment for financial stability, and their children depend on these programs for healthy, supportive environments during the day—environments that stimulate cognitive and socioemotional development.

At the same time, child care providers are struggling to survive amid the pandemic, having to adhere to evolving protocols put in place to keep everyone safe. These protocols often require additional costs and impede the very ability of providers to stay open. Ultimately, Michigan communities are still trying to figure out how to keep child care businesses operational and safe.

All of those factors have contributed to the crisis now facing our child care sector. A 2019 ReadyNation report found that the infant-and-toddler child care crisis costs our national economy $57 billion per year in lost earnings, productivity, and revenue. That harrowing number has likely increased throughout the pandemic. We cannot afford to neglect this industry. As lawmakers consider the way forward in repairing our economy, they must prioritize repairing the child care sector.

Congress just made historic investments in child care through the American Rescue Plan. The bill provides $15 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program and $24 billion for a child care stabilization fund. It also includes important tax provisions to help make child care more affordable for families by expanding and making fully refundable the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC). These funds can start to help Michigan families by simultaneously increasing the supply and alleviating the high demand and pressure on child care providers.

Child care must remain a bipartisan priority in both Congress and the State House in Lansing. The American Rescue Plan provides substantial emergency support to the sector, but, looking forward, we must work towards building consistent and sustainable investments that ensure all child care providers have access to the resources and opportunities needed to offer quality and accessible care.

To improve the state of our economy and the lives of Michigan’s families, lawmakers must continue to support our child care infrastructure in effective and meaningful ways. A bipartisan effort is paramount in ensuring that this invaluable sector receives the resources it needs to uplift Michigan today and for years to come.