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Lawmakers, Whitmer back child care bills

Providers could serve more children

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Home-based child care providers without licensing violations could serve more children under legislation backed Tuesday by lawmakers and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a way to boost access to a critical service.

The main bill would allow for one employee per seven children instead of six in small home operations. Large group homes could have up to 14 kids instead of 12. Staff-to-child ratios at larger child care centers would go unchanged.

“If we could raise our ratio by one, it would do lots of things. It would allow the provider obviously one more to maybe make a little more money to keep them floating but also it gives one more slot for a parent,” Rep. Jack O’Malley, a Lake Ann Republican, said at a Capitol news conference with the Democratic governor and legislators in both parties.

The announcement of the legislation came a day after Whitmer proposed how to spend $1.4 billion in federal COVID-19 aid designated for child care.

“This bill package, in addition to the budget that I proposed, would take us huge steps forward,” she said, saying it would create a “stronger, more sustainable child care industry that can meet the needs of our kids and their families.”

The measures would, among other things, give flexibility to locate child care facilities in strip malls and other multi-use buildings that have taverns and crack down on providers who lose their license only to establish a new business under a different name. Other bills would establish networks to help providers with professional development and other support, enable parents to see facilities’ health and safety records online, and give a grace period to comply with regulations.

O’Malley said too many in-home day cares have closed because it is harder to stay in business. About 75% of kids live in areas with limited access to child care, according to legislators. Ten of 83 counties do not have licensed slots at centers that serve children younger than 30 months.

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