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How Michigan plans to help entrepreneurs open child care programs

Michigan has lost 637 child care programs since the pandemic began, a 7% loss that has exacerbated the difficulties families have in finding child care in many parts of the state.

Michigan officials are betting they can begin to reverse that trend by helping potential vendors navigate an opening process that can be dizzyingly complex.

A new initiative, Our good startpairs child care contractors with a state licensing agency staff member who helps with paperwork and inspections.

Our Strong Start seeks to address issues raised in a recent MuckRock report, “Disappearing Day Care,” which found that Michigan’s child care supply is even more limited than experts thought. There are approximately 264,000 spaces available for children zero to five years old, while Michigan is home to more than 559,000 children under the age of five.

Child care providers were the first educators to return to in-person work during the pandemic. While federal relief funds have helped many programs stay open, some providers have chosen to close rather than deal with the challenges of COVID-19 on top of Michigan’s already precarious child care system economy. .

The state has tapped into federal COVID-19 relief funds to help replenish the supply of child care, noting that families — and especially women — can be forced out of the workforce if they don’t. don’t have a safe place to send their children during the day.

“Since the pandemic, 150,000 women still have not returned to the workforce,” said Emily Laidlaw, director of child care licensing for Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. “A lot of that hurdle is child care.”

Using $100 million of $1.4 billion in federal child care assistance, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said she wants to help open 1,000 child care programs in by 2024. The money will pay for renovations and other start-up costs, and will also pay for four navigators at LARA which will help potential vendors through the process of starting a new program. These staff members will be based in four regions across the state, a recognition that the challenges of opening new programs vary from community to community.

Laidlaw said 300 potential vendors attended a Our Strong Start webinar, and 400 people filled out a form to get in touch with a browser.

Child care contractors who want help applying for a license can fill out the form here.

Keith Butler, youth pastor at Community Christian Fellowship, is working to open a new child care program to address a care shortage in Detroit’s east side church district.

“I’m looking to fill a need, especially now that parents are going back to work,” he said.

The church wants to host a childcare program for 30-50 children ages 2-12. With the help of licensing officials, Butler has already met zoning requirements and had firefighters walk through the proposed space to check for safety hazards. They hope to be fired within three months.

“I can’t say I necessarily expected bad service, but I didn’t expect it,” he said. “They’ve been a godsend.”

Koby Levin is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit, covering K-12 schools and early childhood education. Contact Koby at [email protected].

Luca Powell and Derek Kravitz produced the “Disappearing Daycare” investigative report for MuckRock. You can reach them at [email protected].

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