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Child Care Centers In Their Infancy Getting Push From LARA

September 20, 2022

Courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog

The state licensing process for budding affordable child care centers would be streamlined under a program announced earlier this week.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Our Strong Start program works with child care entrepreneurs from the beginning of the licensure process to the opening of the business’s doors. Its purpose is to help meet the needs of Michiganders who find child care resources either not available in their communities or out of reach because of costs.

“As a mom, I know the importance of high-quality affordable child care,” Whitmer said in the press release. 

“While we’re working to lower child care costs for families and expand access to early learning programs, like 4-year-old preschool, there are still too many working families struggling to find child care that meets their needs and budget.”

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ (LARA) Child Care Licensing Bureau will run the program, which will offer assistance not only in the aforementioned areas but also in applying for available grants to help fund child care startups as well as to assist current businesses looking to grow. 

“It is critical to support child care entrepreneurs and expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II. The program “will ensure that more parents and families can access childcare in their communities,” he said.

As part of the program, the Bureau streamlined the child care licensing process to make it “easier and more efficient,” said Director Orlene Hawks.

Staff members in the program called navigators will work one-on-one with business owners who will be contacted within 48 hours of submitting an online form expressing interest in the program.

“We are thrilled to announce that we are here and ready to work with any Michigander who has a dream of opening their own child care business,” said Mikki Godfrey, manager for Our Strong Start.

The program is part of a larger investment the administration has committed to “expand access to quality, affordable childcare” to the tune of $1.4 billion. 

According to the press release, “To date, the governor has awarded over $700 million in grants, a record amount, to nearly 6,000 child care businesses, provided bonuses up to $1,000 for 38,000 child care professionals, and launched Caring for Mi Future—a $100 million strategy to open 1,000 new child care programs by the end of 2024.”

The Bureau prepared for the statewide launch over the last few months by “working with prospective child care entrepreneurs identified through outreach efforts, such as our child care access fairs,” said a spokesperson for the Child Care Licensing Bureau.

Donyeal Sizemore, a Southeast Michigan child care entrepreneur helped by the program, said: “I’m planning my grand opening and am grateful that Our Strong Start was there to help me every step of the way.

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