The Michigan Women’s Commission (MWC) awarded a $300,000 grant to the Saginaw Intermediate School District on behalf of the Great Lakes Bay Region to act as one of three regions across the State of Michigan to pilot the MI Tri-Share Child Care Program. This program will assist qualifying employees, who work with participating regional employers, with child care expenses.According to the MWC, which is located within the State of Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, “The program is an innovative approach to increasing high-quality, affordable child care for working families.” It removes one barrier for employment while reducing out-of-pocket expenses for employees, and helps employers with employee recruitment and retention. As advocates for expanded child care options, the MWC conducted a statewide survey on child care use which “Shows a majority of parents prefer to care for their children themselves or use family and friends for child care during the pandemic. When asked about post-pandemic care plans, nearly half of the respondents report a desire to send their kids outside the home to licensed child care centers.” Survey results indicating family needs, along with the desire to strengthen the talent pipeline for employers, were key factors for launching MI Tri-Share Child Care Program.Mark Sanchez, Senior Writer for MiBiz, published an article Pilot Program to Address Growing Biz Challenge: Child Care that explains, “State support for people who meet income criteria, as well as the financial backing of their employers, can ease the cost issue for some parents who face a tough question of whether the cost — especially for families with multiple children — outweighs having a second income. That consideration is even harder for families who need two incomes to get by.”Through the program, child care expenses are shared by an employer, the employee, and the State of Michigan with each contributing up to one-third of the costs. For example, under this program, an employee paying $9,000 in annual child care services will now pay $3,000, the employer will cover $3,000, and the State of Michigan will cover $3,000. Participating employers within Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Isabella, Midland, and Saginaw Counties will also receive a tax credit at the end of the year to mitigate the employer’s contributions.Currently, four employers in the region have expressed interest in program participation - Vantage Plastics, Fullerton Tool, Forward Corporation, and The Design Company. The program is open to additional applicants from qualifying counties and it is anticipated that 70 to 80 employees from participating companies will be able to engage in the program. Participating employers must 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. Eligible employees must be employed by a participating employer and have an income above 150% and below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and not otherwise be eligible for the Child Development and Care Program (commonly called the child care subsidy). Designed for working families, eligibility is targeted at Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) families across the region.Paul Aultman, an owner of multiple companies including Vantage Plastics, says, “Child care has always been an important issue within our workforce. Availability is tight and our 24-hour operation can cause scheduling issues for parents. The Tri-Share program brings a great opportunity to help employees and parents with many of these issues at an affordable cost. Vantage Plastics is happy to participate in this program.”Ericka Taylor, Ph.D., Executive Director of Early Childhood at Saginaw Intermediate School District stated, “This opportunity comes at a time where working parents may have had to give up their job to stay at home with their children due to the pandemic, which in turn has affected the number of qualified candidates employers are seeking to hire and retain. Hopefully, this program will help parents alleviate the burden of finding quality child care and provide financial relief to those who are still working.” Dr. Taylor continued, “Our communities and employers will greatly benefit from this program, and this is attributed to all of the collaborative efforts of the Great Lakes Bay Business Advisory Council for Early Childhood that pooled resources and worked together to make this possible.”The Great Lakes Business Advisory Council for Early Childhood recruits and partners with employers, partners with child care providers, assists eligible employees with finding available child care openings, and remains responsible for program administration. The advisory council, sponsored by Consumers Energy and the Saginaw Community Foundation, is a consortium of regional Great Start Collaboratives, businesses, community leaders, and philanthropic members which includes representation from education, nonprofit, business, government, and health industries. Educational agencies are the foundation of the council and include Bay-Arenac ISD, Clare-Gladwin RESA, Gratiot-Isabella RESD, Midland County ESA, Saginaw ISD, and each of their Great Start Collaborative programs, including support from the Great Start to Quality Eastern Resource Center team. The Saginaw ISD will serve as the fiduciary and regional facilitator hub for the awarded Tri-Share Child Care Program Grant.Rich VanTol, Director of Great Start Collaborative at Bay-Arenac ISD, commented, “The Great Lakes Bay Early Childhood Business Advisory prioritizes regional community and economic development, focusing on cradle-to-career talent development while supporting businesses and their employees. We work in cooperation with local businesses and human resources departments to identify employee challenges and offer solutions for building better work-life-family balances.” Mr. VanTol added, “By increasing engagement with the business community, we can effectively demonstrate the value of assisting employees with finding access to high-quality child care providers, other early childhood programs, and assisting with child care costs.”The Tri-Share Child Care Program began grant facilitated operations on March 15, 2021, and is operational through March 15, 2022; however, the State of Michigan anticipates that the success of the pilot programs will drive future program extension and expansion into other communities in Michigan. The three regional facilitator hubs chosen for the Tri-Share pilot are: Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, serving Muskegon County; Saginaw Intermediate School District, serving the Great Lakes Bay Region; and the United Way of Northwest Michigan, serving a five-county rural region in Northwest Lower Michigan.Employers within the Great Lakes Bay Region interested in learning more, or participating in the MI Tri-Share Child Care Program, should contact Rich VanTol, 989-233-8729, firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Ericka Taylor, 989-399-7423, email@example.com.