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Report: MI Kids Eligible but Not Receiving Child-Care Subsides

44% of Michiganders live in child-care deserts.
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44% of Michiganders live in child-care deserts.

New state and county data show among Michigan's youngest children, there are gaps and disparities in access to crucial health, nutritional and educational services.

For instance, 35% of children up to age five are eligible for childcare subsidy credits, but only 5% actually receive them. For the Food Assistance Program, 45% of Michigan children are eligible, but only 25% are enrolled.

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 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.

Originally from just outside Boston, Lily Bohlke is formerly from 2020Talks, a show tracking politics and elections, that started prior to the 2020 Iowa caucuses at KHOI in Ames. She's also a past intern for the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism.
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