MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — The State of Michigan is expanding the MI Tri-Share Child Care pilot program to five additional counties on the lakeshore, thanks to a state funding commitment of $2.5 million.
Tri-Share launched in March in Muskegon County, one of three regional sites where working parents could receive help covering the cost of child care.
The innovative program was the result of recommendations from the Michigan Poverty Task Force, led by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
Tri-Share addresses the need for affordable child care by splitting the cost three-ways — between state funding, employers enrolled in the program, and eligible employees.
Goodwill Industries of West Michigan (GIWM) was designated as a regional facilitator hub for administering the program to employers located in Muskegon County. Other facilitator hubs in Michigan are located in the Saginaw region and Northwest Lower Michigan.
The $2.5 million boost in funding allows the Goodwill-managed hub to expand service beyond Muskegon County to also include Ottawa, Oceana, Newaygo, Lake and Mason counties.
Goodwill's partner in delivering the program in Ottawa County is Ready for School, a school-readiness nonprofit serving the Holland, Zeeland and Hamilton community.
The expansion of Tri-Share means 24 counties are now being served, and by the end of the year, six additional regional hubs will be added, bringing the total to nine.
To participate in Tri-Share, workers must be employed by a participating employer, have an income between 186% and 285% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and not otherwise be eligible for the Child Development and Care Program (commonly called the state child care subsidy).
The additional funds also allowed the household income range for eligibility to expand, opening the program up to more participants.
Participating employers agree to identify and recruit eligible employees, provide the employer portion of each participating employee's child care costs and maintain communication with the facilitator hub regarding each employee's continued employment and eligibility.
"Tri-Share offers a solution to both employers and workers regarding the lack of affordable child care which continues to be a significant barrier to work," said Goodwill Industries West Michigan President and CEO Jeanette Hoyer. “We have had employees call us and say which companies are participating."
Currently in Muskegon County, 10 employers and 58 employees are enrolled in Tri-Share. Hoyer says there’s been significant interest in the program from not only the county’s largest employers, but small companies, too.
"From manufacturing to health care," Hoyer said. “It also help local employers with recruitment and retention."
A coalition of business and advocacy leaders, led by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Representative Greg VanWoerkom (R-MI-91), championed funding for the pilot program.
"It is a priority of mine to find innovative ideas in addressing affordable and accessible childcare. That is why I am proud to have been a part of an incredible effort to introduce this pilot program," said VanWoerkom.
"Child care keeps Michigan working," explains Rick Baker, CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber. "Our members tell us child care is essential to having the talent West Michigan needs to thrive. That's why we were vocal supporters of Tri-Share and additional investments in child care."
WESCO was one of the first employers in Muskegon County to join the pilot program.
"We’re all feeling that competition right now with getting people back into the workforce," said WESCO Associate Assistance Coordinator Michelle Marciniak.
WESCO has made the program available to any of its 1,500 employees who need help covering the cost of child care and who qualify under the income requirement.
"It’s one of the things keeping people from getting back into the workforce. It’s a huge relief off employees,” Marciniak said. “And it’s a huge relief to the store managers because they know that they have reliability with their associates coming to work. It was hassle free for us to be part of the program."
Goodwill Program Manager Catrina Rule has been partnering with local employers, assisting eligible employees in securing child care services, collaborating with child care providers, and the fulfilling the administrative duties of the program.
"Employers outside of Muskegon County have requested to participate. Now we can serve that demand," Rule said. "We anticipate participation to ramp up expeditiously."
Employers, employees and child care providers interested in taking advantage of this program should call (231) 722-7871, ext. 1015, or visit Goodwill's Programs and Services page for FAQs and an income eligibility guide.
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