My favorite kind of bagels are “Keep Fighting” bagels

I’m no newbie to late nights (that often turned into early mornings) watching legislation be written, debated and voted on. During my four years working in the Michigan Legislature, I saw countless hastily written amendments being put up for votes, short fuses getting the best of everyone, and even chants of “Shame! Shame!” being shouted at the majority party reminiscent of an episode of Game of Thrones after they refused to let members speak.

So when I heard that the U.S. Senate was expecting a long night trying to pass their latest version of the Affordable Care Act, I settled in.

I’ll admit when the evening started, I figured it was a done deal. As the Senate began debate, the months we had spent fighting against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare millions of Michiganians depend on were definitely hanging in the balance.

At around 1 a.m., the Twitterverse was going crazy. Things had stalled—votes weren’t being taken, reporters were analyzing body language and many people started predicting that things were not going well for the Majority Leader. Then in dramatic fashion, Sen. John McCain joined Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski (who had been publicly outspoken about the repeal attempts) in opposition to what was considered the Senate’s last ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. At 2:30 a.m., I emailed my co-workers in celebration and headed to bed.

The next morning, I thought we needed to celebrate. I stopped at my favorite downtown Lansing bagel shop for bagels. It was there I ran into a friend and told him about my “celebration bagels,” but he reminded me that they should actually just be “relief bagels.” And he was right because the fight to protect all the gains made through enactment of the Affordable Care Act was and is not over.image2

In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments and to stifle efforts to enroll people in the ACA exchanges during open enrollment. The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report on the impact of terminating cost-sharing reductions. Cost-sharing reductions are paid to insurers to cover costs of a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that requires them to offer plans with reduced deductibles, co-payments, and other forms of cost-sharing to individuals purchasing plans on the healthcare exchanges. The report found that by not continuing these payments the federal deficit would increase by $194 billion by 2026, would drive insurers to exit the marketplaces, and would cause premiums to increase by 20% in 2018 and 25% in 2020.

We are happy to report that President Trump has decided to fund these payments for the month of August. We encourage Congress to make a permanent, mandatory appropriation to ensure full funding of CSR payments in order to stabilize the marketplace and erase much uncertainty in the insurance market.

There is also word out of Washington that Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham are working with the White House to push their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Cassidy-Graham plan continues many of the same flaws in the previous Senate and House Republican repeal and replace bills—and would have the same damaging consequences.

As an advocate, I get it—it’s been a long eight months and we are all exhausted. We are fighting battles on every corner. But it is important for us to remember why we do this work. Incredible work has already been done and it’s okay that we celebrate the little victories, but the next bagel you buy better be a “keep fighting” bagel, because as Congress returns to work next week, so will we.

Emily Schwarzkopf

 

Report: Michigan’s unemployment rate masks staggering loss of workers, aging workforce

For Immediate Release
September 4, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Since 2000, Michigan has lost 326,000 workers, seen labor participation rate go up for older workers, down for younger workers

LANSING—Since 2000, Michigan’s labor force has lost 326,000 workers, driven largely by a drop in workers 16-24 years old, according to the 2017 Labor Day report released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy. The report shows that while Michigan’s monthly unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent for July—the lowest jobless rate since 2000—this decline can be attributed as much to worker attrition as economic improvement.

Workers drop out of a state’s labor force in several ways: physically leaving the state, death, institutionalization (i.e., incarceration), or stopping both work and the search for work (i.e., retirement, disability, staying home with children, etc.). Michigan’s labor force reached its numerical peak of 5.16 million in 2000 and was down to under 4.84 million for 2016, showing a net loss of 326,000 workers.

“How Michigan’s economy is doing depends on which worker or policymaker you talk to and what data you look at,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Michigan’s declining unemployment rate is certainly good news, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Since the unemployment rate was last this low in 2000, Michigan has been steadily losing workers, and our workforce is getting older, neither of which bodes well for our economic future.”

Michigan’s labor force participation rate, which measures the percent of the civilian population 16 years old and over that is working or looking for work, has been at a historic low for several years. Its high-water mark was 69 percent in 2000, but fell to a low of 60 percent in 2011 and 2012, where it has hovered since, despite the improving unemployment rate. In the same way, while Michigan’s employment-population ratio shows clear improvement since 2011 concurrent with falling unemployment, it is below where it was during the economically difficult years of the early and mid-2000s and the 20 years prior.

Michigan’s labor force has also begun to shift toward older workers. From 1979 (the earliest year data on worker ages is available) to 2000, the share of Michigan’s labor force that was 55 years of age or older was between 10-13 percent annually. Following 2000, however, this age group began comprising a steadily larger share of the workforce, and in 2016 their share (22.2 percent) nearly doubled that in 2000, while the portion in prime working age decreased from 70.4 percent to 62.3 percent over that span.

Younger workers, those from age 16-24, comprised a moderately smaller share of the workforce in 2016 (15.4 percent) than in 2000 (17.9 percent) but considerably smaller than in 1979, when they accounted for more than a quarter of the workforce. In keeping with the pattern of the previous 20 years, 72 percent of residents aged 16-24 were either working or looking for work in 2000. That percentage took a sharp and steady plunge over the following decade, bottoming out near 50 percent in 2011 sitting at 63 percent for 2016.

“We’ve all seen this data in action. Think about your daily life and the variety of workers you encounter in jobs that young people used to hold—a fast food worker, a grocery bagger, a restaurant server,” Jacobs said. “Lawmakers need to look at these changing demographics and embrace policies that help younger and older workers alike get the education, skills and training they need to get the jobs that they want.”

Although a higher portion of older individuals are remaining in the workforce, as they retire there are fewer younger workers to replace them. The League’s Labor Day Report offers the following policy recommendations for legislators to strengthen Michigan’s workforce at both ends of the age scale:

  • Make college education less expensive by lowering tuition and increasing financial aid, which will help cut down on student debt;
  • Encourage universities to offer more academically relevant work-study for students with low incomes so that they may gain meaningful work experience;
  • Make postsecondary training for “middle skills credentials” (a short-term or two-year credential such as a license, certificate or associate degree) more accessible to young people, especially those who live in areas with high unemployment and poverty and few available jobs;
  • Provide support services to young single mothers that encourage them to participate in postsecondary education or training and facilitate their completion and success; and
  • Retain Medicaid expansion in order to help provide healthcare for older workers earning lower wages.

To read the full Labor Day report and see labor force and jobless rate data for all 83 counties, go to www.mlpp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Labor-Day-Sept-2017.pdf.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Labor Day report: Michigan has lost 326,000 workers since 2000

pdficonPeter Ruark, Senior Policy Analyst
September 2017

THE LOST WORKERS

In July 2017, Michigan’s monthly unemployment rate dropped to 3.7%. This was the lowest jobless rate since 2000, the state’s best economic year in several decades according to most measures. While falling unemployment is certainly something to celebrate, using the unemployment rate alone to gauge Michigan’s economic recovery ignores important long-term trends in Michigan’s employment situation.

The unemployment rate is defined as the percent of the civilian labor force that is unemployed. Two other measures, when added to the unemployment rate, tell a more comprehensive story of the attrition of workers from Michigan’s job market: the labor force participation rate, which measures the percent of the civilian population 16 years old and over that is in the labor force (that is, working or looking for work), and the employment-population ratio, which measures the percent of the population that is actually employed (and will directly reflect the relationship between the unemployment rate and the labor force participation rate).

LDR fig 1Workers drop out of a state’s labor force in several ways: physically leaving the state, death, institutionalization (i.e., incarceration), or stopping both work and the search for work (i.e., retirement, disability, staying home with children, etc.). Michigan’s labor force, after nearly two decades of steadily climbing, reached its numerical peak of 5.16 million in 2000. During the severe economic downturn in the decade that followed, that number fell to as low as 4.7 million in 2011-12 and has risen slightly in the years since then. The size of Michigan’s labor force is now where it was in the mid-1990s, but well below its peak in 2000. In 2016,  Michigan had a net loss of 326,000 workers since 2000 (Figure 1).

LDR fig 2While changes in the actual size of the labor force tell a modest story, far more illuminating is Michigan’s labor force participation rate, which for several years has been at a historic low. As seen in Figure 2, even during the severe recession during the early 1980s when the state’s unemployment rate reached as high as 15%, the labor force participation rate remained steady at around 64% before gradually rising to a peak of nearly 69% in 2000. With the economic downturn of the 2000s, the rate fell to a low of 60% in 2011 and 2000. At 61.4% in 2016, it has not significantly moved since then despite the improving unemployment rate.

In the same way, while Michigan’s 2016 employment-population ratio shows clear improvement since 2011 concurrent with falling unemployment, it is below where it was during the economically difficult years of the early and mid-2000s and the 20 years prior. The unemployment rate tells us the short-term story that more people who are looking for work are finding it. It masks the longer-term story that a smaller share of people in the state are working or looking for work.

LDR fig 3Using Michigan’s peak employment year of 2000 as a baseline, we can measure the number of net “lost” workers against the number of currently unemployed workers in a given year. As mentioned earlier, Michigan in 2016 had 326,000 fewer workers in its labor force than in 2000, and these lost workers outnumbered the 238,000 unemployed workers that year. Between 2009 and 2011, a jaw-dropping 219,000 workers dropped out of Michigan’s labor force, and the number of lost workers has exceeded the number of currently unemployed workers in each year since then (Figure 3).

LDR fig 4In Michigan’s three largest counties, which comprise roughly one-third of the total state population, the net number of workers lost from the labor force since 2000 is considerably higher than the number of currently unemployed workers (Figure 4). And in the sparsely-populated Upper Peninsula, the workforce continues to shrink while the number of lost workers continues to rise LDR fig 5(Figure 5).

For a table of the unemployed and lost workers in each county in Michigan, please see the appendix.

MICHIGAN’S GRAYING LABOR FORCE

Not only has Michigan’s labor force shrunk over time, its composition has begun to shift toward older workers. From 1979 (the earliest year data on worker ages is available) to 1982, the share of Michigan’s labor force that was 55 years of age or older was between 12% and 13.2%, leveling out at 10-12% from 1983 to 2000. Following 2000, however, this age group began comprising a steadily larger share of the workforce, and in 2016 their share (22.2%) nearly doubled that in 2000, while the portion in prime working age decreased from 70.4% to 62.3%. Younger workers, those from age 16-24, comprised a moderately smaller share of the workforce in 2016 (15.4%) than in 2000 (17.9%) but considerably smaller than in 1979, when they accounted for more than a quarter of the workforce (Figure 6).

LDR fig 6To understand Michigan’s shrinking labor force and the shift in its composition, it is helpful to look at the labor force participation rate of each of the three age groups. In recent years, a larger percentage of Michigan residents 55 years and older are participating in the workforce than before. In 1995, participation by this age group was at its ebb (26%), but has risen fairly steadily since then and by 2016, nearly 37% of residents 55 and older were in the workforce either employed or looking for work (Figure 7). The lack of a “big dip” in the participation rate of older workers suggests that the decline in the labor force was not driven significantly by unemployed workers choosing to retire early.

LDR fig 7The higher labor force participation rate for workers 55 years old and over is likely driven by a number of reasons. According to one study, factors include: rule changes in Social Security and pensions that incentivize later retirement, improved longevity, higher levels of education, less physically demanding jobs and the decline of retiree health insurance.1

YOUNGER MICHIGAN RESIDENTS ARE NOT JOINING THE WORKFORCE AS BEFORE

A moderately smaller percentage of prime working-age residents are in the workforce compared to 2000, but the most significant change in labor force participation is with younger workers. In keeping with the pattern of the previous 20 years, 72% of residents aged 16-24 were either working or looking for work in 2000, but that percentage took a sharp and steady plunge over the following decade. By 2011, only a bit more than half of all 16-24-year-olds in Michigan were in the workforce. The percentage has gone up in fits and starts since then, but at 63% remains significantly lower than in any year prior to 2006.

It is quite telling to compare the younger workforce during the Great Recession of the late 2000s with that during previous recessions, particularly the deep recession of the early 1980s. While the employment-population ratio for young people in 1982 plunged to just under 51% and took several years to rebound, the labor force participation rate dipped only slightly (as reflected in the high unemployment rate during those years). The same was true in the milder recession of the early 1990s.

LDR fig 8In the years following 2000, the labor force participation rate for young workers began a startlingly different pattern from previous economic downturns. Not only did the employment-population ratio for young people go down steadily to record lows over the next decade, but so did the labor force participation rate, which fell from 72% in 2000 to 55% in 2011. That year saw a record low of only 45% of Michigan residents age 16-24 employed, and fewer than half employed during the six years from 2008 to 2013, yet the recorded unemployment rate for those years was considerably lower than in the early 1980s (16-19% compared to 21-26%) due to the very low workforce participation (Figure 8).

Michigan is not unique; the declining participation rate mirrors the trend for younger workers nationally. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the age group with the largest decrease in labor force participation since 2000 is teenagers age 16-19, with white teenagers being the racial group with the largest decrease and Black teenagers with the smallest. Among teenagers, the most often cited reason for not working was school attendance. However, while teenagers not enrolled in school are generally more likely to participate in the labor force than those enrolled in school, the labor force participation rate of out-of-school teenagers also fell. The participation rate for adults age 20-24 has also fallen nationally since 2000, but less steeply than that of teenagers.2

For the portion of younger residents who are deferring entering the workforce due to enrolling in postsecondary education, it can be assumed that their foregone wages from not working now will be more than offset by higher wages after completing their education. Younger people not working, looking for work or going to school, on the other hand, are gaining neither educational credentials nor work experience that could help them in the job market. The cause for this lower labor participation rate among young people not in school is not clearly established, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, could include a lack of desire to enter the workforce due to stagnant wages and to competition from low-skilled workers in other age groups.

POLICY SOLUTIONS FOR WORKERS OF ALL AGES

A significant factor, but not the only factor, in the shrinking of Michigan’s labor force is the lower likelihood of residents age 16-24 to participate in it, particularly those under 20. Although a higher portion of older individuals are remaining in the workforce, as they retire there are fewer younger workers to replace them.

The participation rate of younger workers remains low, but it is slowly rebounding. While there may not be easily identifiable policy strategies to encourage more young workers to enter the workforce, Michigan can undertake the following actions to help both younger individuals who are not yet in the workforce and older individuals who are choosing to stay employed at a later age:

  • Make college education less expensive by lowering tuition and increasing financial aid, which will help cut down on student debt;
  • Encourage universities to offer more academically relevant work-study for students with low incomes so that they may gain meaningful work experience;
  • Make postsecondary training for “middle skills credentials” (a short-term or two-year credential such as a license, certificate or associate degree) more accessible to young people, especially those who live in areas with high unemployment and poverty and few available jobs;
  • Provide support services to young single mothers that encourage them to participate in postsecondary education or training and facilitate their completion and success; and
  • Retain Medicaid expansion in order to help provide healthcare for older workers earning lower wages.

ENDNOTES

  1. Munnel, A.H., The Average Retirement Age—An Update, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, March 2015. (http://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/IB_15-4_508_rev.pdf, accessed on August 7, 2017)
  2. U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Participation: What Has Happened Since the Peak?, Monthly Review, September 2016. (https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2016/article/labor-force-participation-what-has-happened-since-the-peak.htm, accessed on August 7, 2017.)

Facing the realities of child care and work

Twenty-plus years ago when I was the mother of three young children, I worried—like most parents do—about finding child care that I trusted on my budget, as well as how to juggle my job with the inevitable childhood colds, ear infections and bouts of pink eye.

Both seemed like mountains to climb. My first two children were born 14 months apart, so for a period I needed to find infant care for two. High-quality infant care was not only in short supply, but it came at a higher cost. My third child suffered from asthma, so he was frequently sick, changing my work availability without notice.

I was lucky. I had a job that provided me flexibility to deal with child care changes and sick days. My work was largely during standard working hours when there was a greater supply of care options, and I didn’t have children with special needs. I also had the resources to pay for higher-quality child care, which cost more than my mortgage at the time.

But, the reality is that I didn’t know what high-quality child care was at the time. I tried to rely on my uninformed instincts and word of mouth, but I didn’t feel confident that I was doing what was best for my children.

Today, thanks to the work of the Office of Great Start and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, parents have some tools to evaluate quality in child care settings, including a five-star rating system for child care providers.

MI child care challenges opportunities graph 1Unfortunately, many parents still can’t afford higher-quality child care, and have to rely on informal relationships with neighbors and relatives—many of whom are juggling work, health, financial and other struggles of their own. The cost of child care for two children in a Michigan center exceeds $18,000 per year, consuming over 60% of the wages of a family with income at 150% of poverty ($36,900 annually for a family of four).

The Michigan Legislature recently approved some long-needed increases in child care spending, including funds to boost payments to child care providers—many of whom have such low incomes that they are themselves eligible for some forms of public assistance. Also approved was a small bump in the income eligibility cut-off for child care subsidies (from 125% of poverty to 130%).

This is good news for Michigan families but we have a long way to go. The number of families receiving child care assistance has fallen dramatically, in part because of the state’s stringent income eligibility guidelines and disincentives for providers.

The need for affordable child care remains high. Unemployment has dropped in Michigan and nationwide since the Great Recession, but many of the new jobs come with very low wages. Between June of 2016 and 2017, Michigan was one of only 10 states with declining average weekly wages—adjusted for inflation—for workers in private sector jobs.

In a new Budget Brief, the League outlines needed child care reforms including a further expansion of eligibility and child care practices that provide incentives for providers to care for children who receive a state subsidy.

We can and must invest in child care as a two-generational strategy to ensure that parents can work to support their children, and children have the benefit of a high-quality early learning experiences. Both are critical investments in the state’s future economy and workforce.

— Pat Sorenson

Laura Ross

Laura Ross

Laura Ross

Laura Ross is an educator and writer with a background in communications. She has taught English and journalism in the Lansing area since 2005 and prior to that worked in community development as director of the Old Town Commercial Association. Her dedication to writing, research and social justice is what prompted her to seek a communications position with the League.

Laura has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Michigan State University with minors in journalism and history, as well as a Master of Arts in secondary education from Grand Valley State University. She loves to read, listen to podcasts and walk the trails with her husband, son and Moose (the dog).

Contact: lauramr@mlpp.org

 

 

Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse joined the Michigan League for Public Policy in July 2017. Prior to coming to the League, Victoria served as a public policy intern at the North Carolina Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center where she specialized in immigration and workforce development policy. Victoria is also a longtime advocate of immigrant rights and has worked to advance the cause as an organizer and leader for several pro-immigrant groups in North Carolina.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Master of Social Work with a concentration in community, management and policy practice, also from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Contact: vcrouse@mlpp.org

 

The RAISE Act raises no one

For the past year, my 87-year-old grandmother has been studying American civics from her living room in preparation for her naturalization test. With determination and focus, she studied the story of how our nation came to be, pausing every so often to practice her pronunciation of names and events—“Abraham Lincoln,” “Martin Luther King, Jr.,” “The Vietnam War,” and so on. Last week, her efforts finally paid off when she passed her naturalization interview and became a U.S. citizen.

My grandmother’s story in this country began more than 30 years ago when she came to America from Mexico and became a permanent resident through a family-based visa category that enables U.S. citizens to petition for visas for immediate family members. Her daughter, my aunt, petitioned for my grandmother’s visa immediately after becoming a citizen herself and the two were reunited in Chicago, Illinois.

New League Policy Fellow Vikki Crouse celebrates her graduate school graduation in May 2017 with her grandmother, husband, parents, sister and aunt

New League Policy Fellow Victoria Crouse celebrates her graduate school graduation in May 2017 with her grandmother, husband, parents, sister and aunt

My grandmother’s journey is similar to that of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who apply to obtain legal residency in the United States each year and often endure long waiting periods before they are issued a visa. Unfortunately, the family-based visa categories that created a path to citizenship for my grandmother and her children are being threatened today. In the coming weeks, Congress will consider the RAISE Act, a bill that would drastically change our country’s approach to immigration and refugee resettlement. If passed, the bill would:

  • Eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program which issues 50,000 immigrant visas to immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. through a lottery system annually.
  • End some family-based visa categories, and in doing so, close the door on tens of thousands of immigrants hoping to reunite with their families in the United States.
  • Cap the number of refugees who are able to resettle in the United States at 50,000 annually. The previous administration had lifted the admission ceiling to 110,000 for fiscal year 2017. This cap would drastically lower the number of refugees admitted into the country and prevent the sitting U.S. president from lifting the ceiling in response to humanitarian crises.
  • Shift away from a demand-driven model for employment-based immigration that allows employers to petition for foreign workers.
  • Introduce a points-based system that would score who is eligible to enter the country. This system would cap the number of visas issued each year at 140,000 and disproportionately exclude women, older adults, those without a formal education and those from less-developed countries.

The net effect of this legislation would be a drastic reduction of legal immigrants coming to the United States, and a long term loss for our economy and our state’s labor market. If the RAISE Act is passed, the United States would stand to lose approximately 1.3 million jobs over the next 10 years. Immigrants of all skill sets keep Michigan’s economy solvent and help to revitalize and enrich our communities. We need a system that treats people as people, values the contributions of our immigrant population and helps us maintain a strong modern economy.

My grandmother’s naturalization ceremony is just around the corner. On that day, she will wave the American flag and recite an oath of allegiance to this country. I will always remain thankful for her sacrifices. It is because of her courage and resilience that I am a first-generation college graduate. Her triumphs and struggles are part of the reason why I developed a passion for immigration policy, and why I decided to join the League as a policy fellow this year so that I could continue to advocate for the rights of all immigrants. It’s time that our members of Congress and state legislators join me and other advocates in standing up to harmful anti-immigrant proposals, and push for positive immigration reform that can deliver promise and prosperity to everyone.

— Victoria Crouse

All babies deserve to thrive

How we treat and care for mothers and babies is a good measure of our priorities. Thinking about my own experience as a mother, the amount of support that I received from family and friends, especially when my daughter was little, is amazing. Every mother deserves to be supported and have access to the things that she needs to ensure her good health and the health of her baby: having someone to ask questions during pregnancy, connecting with caring healthcare providers, having access to affordable, quality child care when returning to work—and paid maternity leave. These are some of the ways we know help ensure that all babies thrive and do well.

Unfortunately, not all moms and babies in Michigan receive the support and care that they need. The most recent Kids Count in Michigan Right Start maternal and infant health report, Infant death rates decline in Michigan, other trends raise concerns, shows us that while some overall trends are improving, there are still disparities by race, place and income. This year’s report focuses on the infant mortality rate, which is improving in our state. However, the rates of babies who die before their first birthdays are particularly disturbing among African-Americans and Latinos. Comparing 2010 to 2015, infant death rates are rising in smaller, rural counties and income level continues to be highly related to the risk of infant deaths.

All of us can probably remember a time that we cared for or held an infant—or even helped a loved one welcome a new baby to their family. We can all also recall how delicate and fragile newborn babies are! As a new parent, I did not feel as prepared as I thought I would even after reading all of the books and reports that I could get my hands on. I could hardly figure out the car seat to get my baby home from the hospital—a first of many challenges!

im-home-visitBut, thankfully I had access to support and care. All families with little ones should too. This is why home visitation programs are extremely important in our strategy to reduce disparities in infant mortality and improve overall maternal and child health outcomes for everyone. Not only have home visiting programs demonstrated remarkable results, but they are geared toward helping those who need the most support.

Home visiting programs equip families with the tools they need to overcome any barriers or challenges they are facing during pregnancy or the first years of their child’s life. Trained professionals, sometimes nurses or social workers, make home visits with families who have voluntarily enrolled to have one-on-one conversations about any concerns that expectant or new parents might have. For example, if an expectant mom is having difficulty getting to her doctor for prenatal care, the home visitor will work with community partners to help her get to the appointments. Participants in these evidence-based programs experience improved access to prenatal care, reduced preterm births and more, which are critical to reducing infant mortality rates. Just listen to some of the experiences Michigan families have had.

While over 35,000 families are served in state-funded programs, there are many more families in need of services than are currently served. Home visiting programs have been rigorously evaluated and do improve health, increase financial security and reduce child maltreatment. State policymakers should consider expanding the reach of these programs with additional funding. Plus, the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program will expire at the end of September. Congress must reauthorize the program, but also increase its funding to reach more families.

If we are to ensure that all babies thrive well beyond their first birthdays, policies should be targeted to serve those most in need. With rising rates of infant deaths for Latinos and African-American babies being more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday as White babies, reducing racial disparities is a critical component in reducing infant mortalities. Home visiting is a part of this solution.

When I look at my daughter today as she darts all over the soccer field, I think about all the support I had and how she’s the strong kid she is today because of it. All Michigan kids deserve to have a foundation like hers.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

Michigan League for Public Policy comments on violence, racism in Charlottesville

For Immediate Release
August 14, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the racist rallies and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“We’ve been searching all day for the right words to address the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend and there simply aren’t any. Both as individuals of varied races, ethnicities and religions and an organization committed to racial equity through public policy, we share the fear and anger over the current state of our country. History is unfortunately repeating itself. This weekend, we saw the same fascism and bigotry we saw in the buildup to World War II and the same racism and violence that tore apart our communities in the ‘60’s. These actions are unforgivable, and they require every individual and every organization that doesn’t share those beliefs to speak out and denounce them.

“As an organization dedicated to building better lives for all people, we will continue to do what we can to remedy longstanding racist policies and the subsequent disparities and injustices that people of color in Michigan and across the country are experiencing. And as people, we will continue to open our arms and our hearts to all human beings, regardless of the color of their skin, their religion, their nationality or citizenry, or any other difference that others will try to use to pull us apart. Our thoughts are with the families who lost a loved one this weekend, the people who were injured, and everyone who this rally was designed to intimidate and scare—we are with you.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Lack of support with child care costs leaves families struggling

Mallory Boyce

Mallory Boyce

Ever since my junior year of high school, I’ve worked at a child care center in the Grand Rapids area, my hometown. This means that for the past four summers, I’ve spent up to 40 hours a week surrounded by 60 to 75 mostly happy school-age kids. My daily tasks include playing all types of tag games, braiding hair, teaching conflict resolution, and insisting that Band-Aids are of no use unless one is actually bleeding. All of that, plus two free snacks a day? Not a bad gig.

In the noise, fun and controlled chaos of the day-to-day work, it’s easy to forget what my job means for my kids and their families. As a recent report by the League discusses, child care is important as a tool for both educating young children and allowing parents to contribute to economic development.

I am most often reminded of this significance during small talk with people I have only just met, like the woman cutting my hair, a coworker at a second job, or anyone else who might ask what I do for a living. If whoever is doing the asking happens to be the parent of young children, more often than not they wonder about the weekly price for a child of whatever age at the center where I work. I’ll give them a quick estimate, which has always been met with a sigh and a brief lament on the high cost of child care, the stress of trying to balance work with family life and general frustration with the system as a whole.

Kids at play snipTheir frustration is legitimate. While child care is essential for most working families, its cost can often be debilitating. Child Care Aware’s 2016 report on the price of child care in each state found that the price of center-based child care for two children in a family with married parents was 22% of Michigan’s median income for that family type. Lower that family’s income to the poverty line and the same care takes up 91% of their income. Infant care eats up nearly 50% of the median income for single parents, with care for two children coming in at 86%.

The League’s Making Ends Meet in Michigan report shows the cost of child care for every county, and it is a significant expense for families in every corner of the state. Such a large portion of a family’s monthly budget going toward child care leaves little left over for other essentials like housing, food and transportation.

Even with the eligibility threshold for receiving subsidized child care being raised from 125% to 130% of the federal poverty level in Michigan’s 2018 budget, Michigan’s threshold is still among the lowest in the nation. As of 2015, the Child Care Development Fund’s Policies Database Book of Tables showed only three other states with eligibility thresholds below 130% of the federal poverty line, with the majority of states’ thresholds ranging from 150% in South Carolina to 315% in North Dakota. With 22% of the state’s children living in poverty, Michigan can’t afford to be trailing the rest of the nation when it comes to providing affordable child care to families with low incomes.

There is much to strive for when it comes to ensuring that Michigan’s working families have access to affordable, quality care for their children. Further increasing the eligibility thresholds for receiving help with child care expenses and otherwise working to ensure that Michigan’s children are well taken care of will help craft both strong families and a strong workforce, bringing us one step closer to a Michigan where all children thrive.

— Mallory Boyce

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