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Child care more affordable through innovative, bipartisan cost-sharing program

Gov. Whitmer launches the MI Tri-Share pilot program, dividing cost of child care equally between employees, their employer and the State of Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the three regional facilitator hub awardees of the MI Tri-Share Child Care Pilot Program (Tri-Share), an innovative approach to increasing access to high quality, affordable child care for working families, while also helping to retain talent and removing one major barrier to employment. Through Tri-Share, the cost of child care is shared equally by an eligible employee, their employer and the State of Michigan, with coordination being provided regionally by a facilitator hub.

"Every parent in Michigan deserves access to quality, safe, and affordable child care, and Tri-Share brings us one step closer to achieving that goal," said Gov. Whitmer. "During my time in office, I'm proud of the steps we took to make child care more affordable for Michigan parents, including expanding access to child care for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a mom of two daughters, I know how critical child care is, and I will continue working with our partners, especially leaders in the business community, to ensure every parent has access to quality, affordable child care."

Funded with a $1 million appropriation in the FY 21 budget, the program will operate initially in three regions of the state, and will be administered by the Michigan Women's Commission, housed within the Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO). The three regional facilitator hubs chosen for the Tri-Share pilot are: Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, serving Muskegon County; Saginaw Intermediate School District, serving the Great Lakes Bay Region; and the United Way of Northwest Michigan, serving a five-county rural region in Northwest Lower Michigan.

"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," said LEO Acting Director Susan Corbin.

A coalition of business and advocacy leaders, led by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Representative Greg VanWoerkom (R-MI-91), championed funding for the pilot program. "It is a priority of mine to find innovative ideas in addressing affordable and accessible childcare. That is why I am proud to have been a part of an incredible effort to introduce this pilot program," said Rep. VanWoerkom.

"Child care keeps Michigan working," explains Rick Baker, CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber. "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 Tri-Share launches this month, the three regional facilitator hubs will work to ensure a successful pilot phase and partner with the state to work toward long-term sustainability. The role of the facilitator hub is to act as an intermediary between employers, families and child care providers, and to provide overall program management.

Tri-Share is the latest step Gov. Whitmer has taken to stabilize the child care industry and make care available and affordable for families. In her budget recommendation, Gov. Whitmer proposed $370 million for the expansion of childcare options providing additional supports for Michigan families by temporarily increasing the income eligibility threshold from 150% to 200% and temporarily waiving out-of-pocket copays through fiscal year 2022, with a 10 percent increase in hourly rates for child-care providers. Gov. Whitmer also proposed continuing the Tri-Share pilot with a $2.2 million investment.

"Every family wants their child to be safe, happy, healthy and learning," said Cheryl Bergman, CEO of the Michigan Women's Commission. "But for too many working families, quality child care is simply unaffordable. The MI Tri-Share Child Care program addresses the issue of affordability head-on by bringing employers and the state to the table together as direct stakeholders. It is a critical step in developing more opportunities to help Michigan women successfully enter or re-enter the workforce and secure long-term economic competitiveness for our state."

Employees eligible to participate in the Tri-Share pilot must be employed by a participating employer, have an income above 150% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) and below 250% FPL, and not otherwise be eligible for the Child Development and Care Program (commonly called the state child care subsidy). Participating employers must agree to identify and recruit eligible employees, provide employer portion of each participating employee's child care costs and maintain communication with the facilitator hub regarding each employee's continued employment and eligibility.