Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8
Earned Income Tax Credit – Michigan has a state tax credit similar to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (federal EITC). Public Act 4 of 2023 expanded the Michigan EITC from 6% of the federal EITC to 30%, and made the credit expansion retroactive to the 2022 tax year. Based on 2019 taxpayer data, more than 738,000 Michigan families would be eligible, and the average credit is $749.
Pre-K – Governor Whitmer set a goal for universal Pre-K for 4-year-olds by 2027. The FY ‘24 budget makes big increases in the state’s free Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). Spending highlights: -$90.8 million to increase the per-pupil grant from $9,150 to $9,608 for full-day and $4,808 for part-day, and raise income eligibility from 250% to 300% FPL. -$35 million to start up new and expand classrooms. -$30 million to strengthen early childhood workforce. -$18 million for transportation. There is also $15.8 million in new state funds for piloting additional sites for GSRP for 3-year-olds. The Governor directed a Pre-K For All Action Team composed of state, regional and local early childhood leaders to develop an implementation plan. The group hosted 15 listening sessions with child care providers, parents and early childhood stakeholders to determine how to best serve children and the early childhood system as pre-K expands. Their report will be out soon.
New State Department – Through an executive order, Governor Whitmer directed the creation of a new state department called Michigan Lifelong Education, Achievement and Potential (MiLEAP), which will be led by a gubernatorial appointee. MiLEAP begins Dec. 1, 2023, and will be comprised of three offices including the Office of Early Childhood Education to oversee programs and policies statewide related to early learning and care, family engagement and education, pre-K, and child care. Various offices and staff will be transferred from several state departments to fill all three offices – Early Childhood Education, Higher Education and Education Partnerships – and they will collaborate with other State of Michigan departments and entities, as needed, to achieve their goals.
Lead Testing – House Bill 4200 and Senate Bill 31 (Public Acts 145 and 146) passed in 2023. They require children in the state to be tested for lead poisoning at 12 months old and 24 months old, beginning January 1, 2024. An additional test will be required between the ages of 2 and 6 if the child has no previous record of being tested. Children living in areas with a high risk of lead poisoning would also be tested at age 4.
Filter First – As an additional step to prevent lead exposure, Public Acts 154 and 155 of 2023 create the Clean Drinking Water Act and require schools and child care centers to install filtered-faucets, develop a drinking water management plan, and conduct routine sampling and testing to ensure safe and accessible drinking water for children.
Child Care – With an initial $100 million investment in child care starting in 2022, the Whitmer Administration’s Caring for MI Future program has exceeded its goal to open 1,089 new child care centers before the end of 2024, while also helping 2,159 home-based providers expand their programs across Michigan. In total, the program has added 36,783 new spots in child care facilities. Through Caring for MI Future, entrepreneurs gain access to a variety of resources to launch and expand their businesses. Supports include access to a team of LARA navigators, facility improvement grants, pre-licensure and start-up funding, business development tools, and support with recruiting and developing staff. Providers in nearly every county of the state have participated in Caring for MI Future.
Gun Reforms – Surpassing motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of child injury, the issue of guns and legislation to control access were front and center during our 2023 legislative session. Public Acts 14-23 and 35-38 of 2024 included reforms to expand background checks, put in place safe storage requirements for guns, enable the temporary removal of weapons from individuals deemed to be a danger to themselves or others and remove sales and use tax from safety devices.
Taking Up ICHIA Option – $32.1 million is included in the FY 24 state budget, and a Medicaid policy change is in place, to end Michigan’s five-year waiting period for immigrant children and pregnant individuals eligible to enroll in Medicaid or MIChild (CHIP). An estimated 8,000 individuals are impacted and now eligible for the full array of Medicaid benefits, including 12 months postpartum coverage for those eligible through pregnancy. HB 4740 will codify the change.
Additionally, a 10-bill package aimed at improving maternal and infant health moved out of House committee and is currently awaiting action (anticipated in 2024). Bills include statutory reference to levels of maternal care and the state’s perinatal quality collaborative, private insurance and Medicaid coverage for all pregnant individuals to receive a blood pressure monitor as well as mental health screenings at obstetric and pediatric visits.