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Program helping working families afford child care expanded to 59 counties

Tri-Share is a state program splitting the cost of child care between the family, their employer and the State of Michigan.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The MI Tri-Share Child Care Program began in March of 2021 with nine counties. Now, it is in 59 counties and the City of Detroit, helping working families afford child care. 

The MI Tri-Share Child Care Program splits the cost of child care between an eligible employee, their employer and the State of Michigan, with coordination being provided regionally by a facilitator hub.

Goodwill Industries of West Michigan (GIWM) was designated as a regional facilitator hub for administering the program to employers located in Muskegon County in March of 2021. Jeanette Hoyer, President and CEO, said the program was "going pretty well." 

"We have about 60 families engaged," said Hoyer, "And we've heard from some of them, like one woman said, it feels like I don't have to just work to pay for childcare anymore."

Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is the facilitator hub for Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana and Ottawa counties. It helps about 25 employers enroll their employees in the program. 

"No one has enough employees, right?" said Hoyer, "We're all struggling to find the talent that we need. One of the major reasons that women in particular haven't gone back to work is because of the cost of finding childcare and the availability of childcare."

According to Cheryl Bergman, CEO of Michigan's Women's Commission, 159,000 women have left the workforce entirely since February of 2020.

"We need culture change when it comes to caregiving and its value," said Bergman about the program, "But until then, good policy like Tri-Share is a great start."

Meanwhile, Kent County has been part of the Tri-Share program since summer of 2022. Facilitated by Vibrant Futures, the county has about ten employers taking part in the program. 

"If you've got families that are paying 30 to 50% of their household income, on something that's costing them as much as rent and mortgages, then you've got families that are under stress economically," said Chana Edmond-Verley, CEO of Vibrant Futures, "With growing housing prices and childcare costs, it really almost is a big incentive not to work."

Edmond-Verley called the Tri-Share program "a game changer," and she's hoping to see it expand even further in Kent County. 

Wolverine Coil Spring in Grand Rapids is one of the employers taking part in the Tri-Share program. 

"It's a wonderful way for us to recruit new employees, there's been zero downside to this from a business perspective," said Diane Peacock, Human Resources Manager, "I don't I don't see any reason why any employer would not sign out into this program."

Melissa Trotter is one of those employees taking part in the program. She is a single mother to a daughter named Ava, who says she was struggling paying for childcare while working. 

"It was costing me about $800 a month in childcare," said Trotter, "Which is almost as much as a mortgage payment. I was definitely struggling."

Trotter said she made too much money at Wolverine Coil Spring to qualify for many other child care assistance programs. Yet, she was barely making enough to take care of her household, pay for gas, food and childcare. 

"It totally took a burden off of me," said Trotter, "I am now paying $280 a month in childcare expenses, which has been a total blessing. I'm able to keep working. I'm able to keep Ava in a daycare where she's made plenty of friends."

In order to qualify for the MI Tri-Share Child Care Pilot Program, participants must be employed by a participating employer, have an income above 185% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) and below 285% FPL and not otherwise be eligible for the Child Development and Care Program.

RELATED VIDEO: Early childhood care in the U.S. is in crisis

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