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New program aims to foster expansion of Michigan’s child care capacity

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Child care

The State of Michigan is starting a new effort to guide people through the process of setting up a child care business.

The Our Strong Start program works by connecting potential entrepreneurs with advisors who can help them with issues like licensing or finding a space.

Jared Rodriguez is executive director of the Childcare Providers Association of Michigan.

He said the number of childcare locations in the state has dwindled in recent years — while replacing them has its challenges.

As a result, he said, “a one stop shop for new entrepreneurs and … small business childcare centers to open, or in-home small businesses to open quicker, faster, in high-demand areas or rural areas, is going to be an extremely positive thing for Michigan.”

The state described Our Strong Start as part of a $1.4 billion investment into child care.

Other state-led efforts to improve child care access include issuing grants to businesses and bonuses to workers.

Rodriguez said the state is on the right path, but he’d also like to see more streamlined oversight of the child care industry. He said centers currently have to answer to a list of agencies to meet various requirements.

“If we could have a single point of entry for all regulatory burdens and for the industry, and for any reporting that might have to go from providers to the State of Michigan in a broader sense, it would be extremely helpful,” he said.

Rodriguez framed supporting child care growth as vital to building the state’s economy.

Officials said the initiative will help the state reach a goal of opening a thousand new childcare programs by the end of 2024.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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