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Child Care Costs as Much as College for Some Michigan Families

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Child care for one infant accounts for more than half the salary of a Michigander earning minimum wage. (AdobeStock)
Child care for one infant accounts for more than half the salary of a Michigander earning minimum wage. (AdobeStock)
 By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman - Producer, Contact
March 29, 2021

LANSING, Mich. -- Affordable child care is a crucial support for working parents, rivaling the cost of college or housing for some Michiganders.

Research from the Michigan League for Public Policy showed the price for an infant at a child-care center is nearly 20% of income for Michiganders at the state's median income level of about $57,000 dollars.

Parker James, Kids Count Policy Analyst at the League, said Michigan has a low eligibility rate for the state's child-care subsidy program, with just 5% of kids age five and younger qualifying.

"Just the eligibility remaining too low leaves a lot of families out," James explained. "And having to make really tough decisions about economic opportunities, educational opportunities, a lot of sacrifices being made just because child care is so expensive."

The national median eligibility is about 180% of the poverty level; Michigan's is 150%.

The report, with county-level fact sheets, was created as part of the new Think Babies Michigan Collaborative, which is working to make Michigan a top state in which to have a baby and raise a child.

James added another challenge is some Michigan families live in child-care deserts, where there is a lack of supply of licensed child-care providers.

"Providers tend to concentrate in areas with higher median incomes and housing values," James pointed out. "So communities with lower incomes; rural communities, communities that have been racially segregated and cut off from resources, those are the families really most affected by this lack of child care."

Child-care workers also face financial challenges. James noted roughly half of them are eligible for some sort of public assistance and few have health care, paid sick leave or other benefits.

"We're advocating for solutions that both support providers by increasing reimbursement rates and subsidy and also families by increasing eligibility," James emphasized. "So we can support families, but also support providers and child-care workers who tend to be some of the lowest paid professionals in the state."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's 2022 budget proposal includes a temporary increase of the child-care subsidy eligibility to 200% of poverty, and an increase in rates paid by the state to child-care providers.

Disclosure: The Michigan League for Public Policy/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children's Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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