LANSING, Mich. — As people begin returning to the workplace, one major obstacle stands in their way: childcare.
From nonprofits to business organizations to childcare providers themselves, many in the Lansing community recognize the importance of this issue and are working to address it.
“We’re starting to see a very large increase in childcare needs," Tiffany Floate, Childcare Director at Beginnings Childcare said. "Pre-pandemic it was very few and far in between that we were getting phone calls. But we’re getting several calls a day now.”
The state of Michigan is due to receive$1.4 billion in federal funding for childcare.
And those close to the issue say it can't come soon enough.
“We have joined with several other business organizations throughout the state to ensure that these dollars are spent in an effective and impactful way for employers, working parents, and of course, for children," Michelle Rahl, Vice President of Member Engagement, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, said.
Michigan's Children is a nonprofit child policy and advocacy organization that is pursuing public policy solutions to address what president and CEO Matt Gillard calls "a broken system."
“I think we have a pretty strong bipartisan support here in Michigan for improving our childcare system," Gillard said. "The governor’s office has really prioritized this. The governor’s office has worked closely with advocates like ourselves, and we’re seeing the legislature dig into this issue and really buy-in and understand.”
Lansing School District recently announced it is offering free pre-k this fall, which could provide a bit of much-needed help.
“This is a game-changer," Rahl said. "This could be a real talent attraction and retention tool for working parents with Lansing School District taking this really innovative approach and offering pre-k at no charge.”
But this issue still weighs heavily on many Michiganders.
Float has noticed this in the many calls she has received from parents looking for childcare as they return to work.
“Parents are incredibly stressed," she said.
Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce works with over a thousand local businesses and organizations. And Rohl said they have been very vocal about this issue as well.
“We are hearing from more and more employers, more and more employees, that this childcare issue has moved into crisis mode," Rohl said. "And it’s really going to be a huge impediment for our full economic recovery."
Rahl said negotiations with state legislators are ongoing. And Gillard said nonprofits, like Michigan's Children, will continue to advocate for effective spending on childcare in Michigan.
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