By Jon King /

New data shows that among Livingston County's youngest children, there are gaps and disparities in access to crucial health, nutritional and educational services.

For instance, 12% of children up to age five in Livingston County are eligible for childcare subsidy credits, but only 2% actually receive them. For the Food Assistance Program, 20% of county children are eligible, but only 7% are enrolled. While the disparities are better than the average across Michigan, they still indicate missed opportunities for families in need.

Kelsey Perdue, Kids Count project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy, said it is important for families to access safety-net programs.

"They really were designed to help families with low incomes afford necessities," Perdue explained. "Oftentimes eligibility requirements impact program participation and reach. That's one of many reasons why access might not meet need."

In November, the state raised the threshold for child-care subsidies to 185% of the federal poverty level, but many Michiganders live in child-care deserts, where there are not enough spots in high-quality child-care for the population of children. The Kids Count report labeled Livingston County as having “low capacity” when it comes to four or five star providers.

The 2022 School Aid budget, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, includes $168 million for the Great Start Readiness Program, the state-funded preschool program, and $1.4 billion for more affordable and available child care.

Perdue pointed out there are additional steps to take, such as permanently expanding eligibility, as well as removing unnecessary barriers.

"There's currently a requirement that families where the parents do not live in the same household, in order for the parent with custody of that child to be eligible for child-care subsidies, they have to initiate a child-support case against that noncustodial parent," Perdue noted.

New fact sheets noted a history of racial segregation and disinvestment in Michigan communities have led to racial disparities in poverty levels. Children who are Black, Indigenous, Latino and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander are more likely to live under the poverty line than white children statewide. That trend is less apparent in Livingston County, which is 93% white.

Public News Service contributed to this report.