Published in Economic Development

Goodwill Industries of West Michigan to help facilitate state child care pilot program

BY Thursday, March 18, 2021 02:33pm

Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is one of three organizations statewide that was selected to pilot an initiative assisting lower-income workers with affording and accessing child care.

Serving Muskegon County, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan joins United Way of Northwest Michigan in Traverse City and Saginaw Intermediate School District as “facilitator hubs” for the MI Tri-Share Child Care Pilot Program, state officials announced Thursday.

Under the program administered by the Michigan Women’s Commission, the state, employers and their employees will split the cost of child care. The initiative originated from a coalition of interests the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce assembled in 2019 to examine ways to assist lower-wage workers with child care.

The goal is to bring more people into or back to the labor pool to ease a worker shortage that persists across several industries.

“Child care keeps Michigan working,” Grand Rapids Chamber CEO Rick Baker said in a statement issued by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. “Our members tell us child care is essential to having the talent West Michigan needs to thrive. That’s why we were vocal supporters of Tri-Share and additional investments in child care.”

As MiBiz reported last month, the state backed the pilot with $1 million allocated in the current fiscal year. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed allocating another $2.2 million in the 2022 fiscal year for the MI Tri-Share program.

Under the pilot program, the three organizations will each receive $300,000. The hubs will serve as an intermediary between employers, families and child care providers, and provide program management.

Hubs will recruit employers to participate in the program that will provide child care assistance to their employees who are otherwise ineligible for a state child care subsidy. Each hub must recruit three employers and assist in identifying and recruiting eligible employees who must earn more than 150 percent of the federal poverty level but no more than 250 percent.

Eligible employees at participating companies would have their child care costs split between state funding, their employer, and their own one-third share.

“As the economy changes, child care must adapt as well. Access to child care supports both present and future generations of the workforce. If we make the investment today, we will ensure the flourishing of the next generation while meeting the needs of working parents and the businesses that seek to employ them,” Susan Corbin, acting director for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said in a statement.

In her budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, Whitmer also has proposed using $370 million to temporarily increase the income eligibility threshold to receive a state child care subsidy from 150 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Whitmer also proposes temporarily waiving out-of-pocket copays through the 2022 fiscal year, and paying for a 10 percent hourly pay increase for child care providers. The appropriation would come from $78 million in one-time state money and $292 million in federal stimulus funding.

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