Michigan child care workers receive bonuses but shortages persist

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Many early Michigan educators will soon be receiving $ 1,000 bonuses, a “thank you” to thousands of workers across the state who worked in tough, low-paying, essential jobs during the scariest days of the pandemic.

Child care providers welcome the money, which comes from federal COVID assistance, even though they say they are struggling to hire for those same jobs.

“I’ve tried everything,” said Beverly Hogan, director of three daycare centers in the Detroit area. “They could send a CV, then no call, no introduction.”

In an effort to attract more staff, Hogan has increased the entrance wage at its centers in recent months by $ 4 an hour, putting it at $ 13 – well below Michigan’s median hourly wage of $ 19.

Labor shortages in various industries are making headlines as the pandemic reshapes the economy. For the child care industry, a tight labor market only adds to the deep turnover and hiring problems that predate the pandemic.

“We’ve been sounding the alarm bells for years now that child care workers are completely underpaid and undervalued,” said Matt Gillard, president of Michigan’s Children, a nonprofit advocacy group. “A $ 1,000 bonus is not only appropriate, but overdue. But this is not a long term solution. We have to fundamentally change the program to make it a viable profession.

Bonuses will be paid full-time educators or currently paid administrators in home centers or programs. Part-time employees are eligible for $ 500.

Suppliers can also apply to receive up to $ 1,000 in incentive payments for new hires.

A sharp increase in federal child care spending in response to the pandemic has helped most programs stay open despite a sharp drop in enrollments and rising costs related to COVID prevention. At least several hundred Michigan child care programs, or 6% of the total, have closed during the pandemic, less than feared in the spring of 2020.

Other financial aid is on the way. Governor Gretchen Whitmer announcement this week, suppliers can now apply for a share of $ 350 million in stabilization funds that will be used to finance bonuses and hiring incentives. Another round of grants is expected to come out in 2022.

The state has also used federal funds to increase payments to providers caring for low-income children. And the income requirements for the grants have been increased, which means more families are eligible for assistance with childcare expenses.

But these funding increases are temporary, and advocates say larger structural changes are needed. A major additional influx of federal support for early childhood education is on the agenda of Congress, which is evaluating a proposed expansion of the U.S. social safety net that includes provisions for child care. But the fate of this legislation is uncertain as Democrats hold a slim majority.

The economy of the child care industry is largely determined by government funding levels, especially in low-income communities where parents typically cannot afford the private child care costs that may be incurred. on par with University of Michigan tuition.

Suppliers have used COVID relief funding to boost salaries and benefits for their staff, but they often can’t compete with other hourly industries.

“I love my job, but from the outside who wants to teach? Said Monique Snyder, director of the Clubhouse daycare in Brainiac. “People say, ‘You want me to sit in this classroom with these kids and make $ 32,000 a year? I could go to Amazon and do that.

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