New childcare relief fund established during COVID-19 pandemic

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    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a $130 million Child Care Relief Fund to lower costs of childcare for Michigan families during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also ensuring childcare businesses stay open. 

    The fund provides direct, non-competitive grants to childcare providers to help ensure that providers currently serving essential workers remain open and costs associated with providing care during the pandemic are not passed on to families. 

    “Childcare providers have been critical partners in helping our state respond to COVID-19, and we are extremely grateful for their service,” Whitmer said. “Every child care provider and early educator is important in giving parents some peace of mind while they are delivering essential services to our state at this challenging time.” 

    The fund consists of $100 million in federal CARES Act funding and $30 million from the state’s childcare fund.

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    In order to qualify for the grants, providers must commit to reducing their weekly rates for families by at least 10%, provide care for children of essential workers regardless of where their parents or caregivers work and must agree not to charge a fee to hold a child’s spot in a program.

    Grants start at $1,500 for home-based providers and $3,000 for childcare centers. Additional funds will be awarded based on the size of the provider, whether they are open and serving essential workers and their quality rating.  

    “These funds will help sustain high quality childcare that is vital for Michigan’s children and families,” said state Superintendent Michael Rice. “Whether it’s to help childcare providers cover fixed costs like their mortgage, utilities, insurance or payroll, we wanted the funds to be as flexible as possible to meet their specific needs.” 

    Eligible providers include licensed childcare centers, family group homes, tribal childcare providers, provisional disaster relief childcare centers and subsidized license-exempt providers.

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    The fund will be administered by the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Care, and will be supported by the governor’s office and the Michigan Department of Labor and Regulatory Affairs. 

    Beginning Wednesday, childcare providers can fill out a grant application online.

    There also are changes to the Child Development and Care program, commonly called the child care subsidy, to ensure families have access to care and providers are able to have financial security. Those changes include increasing the hours school age children can be in care and extending the deadline for re-determinations so families can continue to receive the subsidy during the crisis.

    Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Jacobs said the fund is “a critical infusion of resources into the state’s childcare system at a time of great disruption,” but added more needs to be done going forward. 

    “With broad eligibility for these grants, we appreciate the governor’s support of all childcare providers and the choices parents make — by investing in child care centers, homes, tribal providers and family/friends/neighbors who provide childcare,” Jacobs said. 

    Allison Donahue
    Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.