DETROIT (WXYZ) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a $350 million grant program that aims to support child care businesses and provide bonuses for thousands of child care professionals.
"I think that this grant will play some stability for a lot of the providers and early childhood development centers," said Laurie Clark-Horton, owner of LACC Child Care Academy.
Clark-Horton says the grant is taxable and can be used for a variety of things.
"Rent, utilities, minor improvements for your building — you can even ask permission to use some for hiring incentives," Clark-Horton said.
The program also features a $1,000 bonus for current child care professionals. Erika Blanchard, a kindergarten teacher at LACC, says the bonus is a significant amount.
"It shows appreciation for one, and it’s the money that I’m sure everyone can use it right now," Blanchard said.
During the coronavirus pandemic, most child care centers across Michigan were shut down. And when they reopened with strict COVID-19 safety measures, LACC’s Michelle Thomas says the enrollment was low, forcing employers to keep a skeleton staff.
"A lot of people did change carriers and when you did return to work, you're still kind of trying to catch up because I know in my family, we had a death in the family. So there were times I had to take off because I had to take care of my father," said Thomas, who is a coordinator at LACC Child Care Academy.
As for future incentives, Cassandra Hayes says there is still a lot authorities can do to help child care professionals, as well as make it affordable for parents.
"They need to give them extra amount of money as far as raising the minimum wage, as well as making sure it's not so hard for families to get assistance," said Hayes, the director at LACC Child Care Academy.
Meanwhile, coming back to the grant, Laurie says for some places enrollment numbers might pose a challenge.
"Some of the centers are smaller, some are larger, so the grant will depend on how many children you serviced," Clark-Horton said.
According to Clark-Horton, the grant application process is simple. Child care professionals looking for their bonus pay will need to contact their employer directly.