By Lily Bohlke - Public News Service

Michigan advocates for children and families are praising many of the investments in the 2022 state budget passed this week, and said they hope to see more policy reforms as well.

The budget dedicates $1.4 billion dollars to child care at the state level, to make it more affordable, support childcare providers and the industry as a whole, and strengthen the workforce.

Alex Rossman, external affairs director at the Michigan League for Public Policy, said these investments are especially important for families' economic recovery from the pandemic.

"It's just not economically feasible for parents to pay for child care, when they're ultimately potentially spending more on child care than they're earning at a job," Rossman pointed out.

The budget also includes grants for child-care providers to update their facilitates, get technical assistance and other operational needs. Rossman added more families will be eligible for subsidized child care, and there are investments in maternal and infant health, as well as food and nutrition supports.

Rossman noted the budget is aimed not only at making care more affordable for families, but also ensuring that child-care providers get the support they need, including paying bonuses to child-care workers. He explained jobs in the field are often underpaid, which can lead to high turnover.

"Whether they are center care, franchise businesses or whether they're operating care out of their home, they have had increased financial challenges during the pandemic because of changes in enrollment and attendance there," Rossman observed.

He emphasized a bipartisan package sponsored by Argentine Township Republican Mike Mueller is now in the works to make policy changes aimed at increasing access to high-quality childcare. It will include a bill to increase care for infants and toddlers, and to authorize family child-care networks.

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