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Senate Tries To Address Child Care ‘Desert’ With Bills

June 14, 2022

After more than three years spent at the design table, the Senate passed legislation to allow child care providers to accept a few more kids, give them 90-day grace periods for implementing new mandates and create an electronic option for sharing safety records. 

Providers overseeing non-toddler and non-infant youths would see their staff-to-child ratio expand from 1:6 to 1:7, making a difference in profitability. Also, according to Sen. Wayne A. Schmidt (R-Traverse City) – chair of the Department of Education (MDE) Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, it combats over-regulation and is hopefully a step forward in removing some of the barriers faced by providers. 

According to the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP), an estimated 44% of Michigan residents lived in a child care desert, where the ratio of children 5 years old and under to the number of licensed child care spots was larger than three. This was despite 87% of providers being open for business as of January 2021. 

“These bills address the need to keep working to make child care more accessible and affordable while supporting our state’s vital child care providers, including addressing the specific challenges and needs of our home-based child care providers,” said MLPP President Monique Stantonin a statement released Wednesday. 

In March 2021, MLPP also published that child care for one infant absorbs 19% of the income of a family earning the state’s median income, and 55% of a parent working a minimum wage job.

The legislation was unanimously passed out of the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee on May 26. 

Schmidt gave credit to the lead sponsor of the endeavor, Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann). 

“There was a lot of engagement with stakeholders, obviously, whether it was the (Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs), the childcare industry…all of that, (I) give a lot of credit to Rep. O’Malley. He really worked these bills hard,” Schmidt said. “You still have all the safety measures in place, but it’s much more realistic.” 

As for changes since the package was introduced nearly a year ago, Schmidt described modifications as minor and made with the same intent for ensuring “there’s more reliable, affordable and accessible daycare – that’s what Michigan families are looking for.” 

Substitutes also lowered the age for eligible child care workers from 18 to 16 years old. 

The package, originally introduced in the House, consists of measures to allow daycare facilities to operate from multi-use buildings as long as the licensee verifies with the state that the environment is child-safe – under Rep. John Roth (R-Traverse City)’s HB 5048. 

Early during Summer 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined the eclectic group of House members when they introduced the package, foreshadowing a bill-signing when she described its policies as “huge steps forward” on assembling a more sustainable child care industry in the state. 

In the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, Whitmer welcomed its extension on free or low-cost child care to families of four earning up to $49,000, which was something she spent last summer parading. 

At the May committee meeting, Alexa Kramerof the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) said her organization enthusiastically supported the legislation, describing the bills as well-vetted and directly diving into helping “the regulatory side of it and also the supply building.” 

“From SBAM’s perspective, childcare is a main workforce barrier for folks getting into the workforce for our members, and then on the flip side, our childcare providers are small businesses themselves, so I think that SBAM has a unique voice in this space,” Kramer said. 

Other items in the package include:

  • O’Malley’s HB 5041 expands the provider-to-child ratio from 1-6 to 1-7 for licensed operators of at least 29 consecutive months and who have acquired a renewed regular license after the time period.
  • HB 5042 from Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores) requires a child care center license applicant to disclose ownership interests and bars applicants from shutting down and opening under a new name when hit with violations. 
  • HB 5043 from Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) creates family child care networks, distributing business and operational support to in-home providers, as well as tax-filing assistance and curriculum materials. Aid under these networks would be free-of-charge and based on regional needs. 
  • HB 5044 from Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton) mandates the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to create an infant-toddler contract model “that incentivizes increased wages and quality improvements in care,” according to a Michigan House Democrats press release. 
  • HB 5045 from Rep. Rodney Wakeman (R-Freeland) requires any special investigation that’s been conducted within a three year period into a provider will remain a matter of public record and outcomes will be made available on a public website. 
  • HB 5046 from Rep. Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock) authorizes a 90-day window for compliance to licensees under the state’s Childcare Organization Act. 
  • HB 5047 from Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland) permits information and records to be issued via an electronic form. 
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