FILE - In this May 24, 2021 file photo, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at Steelcase in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday, June 11 unanimously ordered the state elections board to certify a veto-proof initiative that would let Republican legislators wipe from the books a law Whitmer used to issue sweeping pandemic orders. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday outlined how Michigan should spend more than $1.1 billion allotted for child care under the most recent federal coronavirus rescue, proposing to make it more affordable and to give workers $500 retention bonuses every three months.

The funding would be in addition to nearly $300 million from a prior round of federal COVID-19 aid the Democratic governor included in her annual budget proposal, which is being negotiated with the Republican-led Legislature.

“COVID has been a reminder that child care is essential to our economy. There's just not enough quality, affordable child care that can meet the needs of Michigan's families and children,” she said during a news conference at Troy Babes in Toyland in suburban Detroit.

Much of the funding, nearly $650 million, must help child care facilities reopen or ensure they remain open amid the pandemic, according to the governor's office. But the state has flexibility with other funds.

Whitmer proposed raising state payments to providers that serve lower-income children by 20% instead of 10% as she had suggested in February, before Congress and President Joe Biden enacted a $1.9 trillion rescue package. She also suggested lengthening a previously proposed expansion of eligibility for child care subsidies and a proposed waiver of families’ out-of-pocket copays through September 2023, a year later than planned. About 150,000 additional kids would become eligible if the expansion is authorized by legislators.

The $500 quarterly bonus for child care employees would go through September 2022. Whitmer also proposed a signing bonus for new staff and grants to incentivize the opening of child care businesses in places with insufficient supply. Adults enrolled in new state community college tuition-free programs — Michigan Reconnect or Futures for Frontliners — would be eligible for subsidized child care.

“Basically we have a one-time injection of six times the amount of resources we usually have for this purpose,” Whitmer said of the federal aid. “So clearly, this is an unprecedented opportunity granted by the extraordinary circumstance of a once-in-a-century pandemic.”

Her announcement came about a month after the GOP-led House passed a supplemental budget bill with nearly $1.5 billion for child care.

“There is a fair amount of overlap between what the House approved... and what the governor announced today, and there are also some differences to work through,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Thomas Albert, a Lowell Republican. “I am confident we will find common ground to move forward and make a real difference helping Michigan families meet their child care needs.”


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