Whitmer wants to use $1.4 billion to expand child care in Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a $1.4 billion plan to expand child care for Michigan families, hoping to exercise an "unprecedented" injection of federal funding to bolster access to working family support.

The extra cash, courtesy of relief funding packages passed by Congress earlier this year, would be used for "low and no-cost child care" available by expanding eligibility for child care.

"As we determine how to spend this money, we need to define our vision: availability, affordability, and quality," Whitmer said during a press conference in Troy Monday morning. She was flanked by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Congresswoman Haley Stevens (D-Rochester), Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, as well as members of the Detroit Regional Chamber in Troy for the press conference. 

Some of the money will go toward helping child care businesses remain open, which would prevent availability from shrinking in the state. It would also expand eligibility for subsidized health care by sending money to families with an income equal to or less than 200% of the federal poverty level - which is about $53,000 a year for a family of four. 

Whitmer said the expansion would add 150,000 more kids to the program. 

The plan would also boost pay for child care professionals. 

In a typical year, Michigan receives $250 million for child care from the federal government. But two massive rescue packages expanded available money to almost a billion and a half in funds. 

"So basically, we have a one-time injection of six times the resources we usually have," said Whitmer. 

Child care funding is among several places that Michigan is interested in spending the billions of dollars in economic aid sent to it by the federal government in its latest relief package.

That, along with increasing the minimum wage, and unlocking money for small businesses were among three places where Whitmer wanted to send the extra money. However, any money would need approval from the Republican-majority legislature. 

The effects of not enough available child care were on display during the pandemic when more than 136,000 women left the workforce due to duties at home.