A new grant offsets the cost of hiring new employees at child care centers in the region

In the wake of COVID-19, “Help Wanted” signs are up everywhere, including child care centers. Filling those positions is proving to be a challenge. At the same time, finding good, affordable child care is difficult for people returning to work.

The Bay Area Community Foundation is looking to help on both sides of the problem.

One factor that can drive up child care costs is the start-up expenses required to get employees ready to work.The Foundation is using grants to help child care centers find high-quality employees. One big obstacle to hiring is that employees need expensive training and background checks before their first day of work.

Rich VanTol, who works with early childhood programs with the Bay-Arenac ISD, says oftentimes people looking for work can’t afford the upfront costs, which can run around $100.

Some child care providers absorb those costs, but those facilities generally pass the cost onto parents in the form of fees and tuition. The higher cost makes it even more difficult to find good quality, affordable child care.

Typical pre-employment costs include:
  • Fingerprinting, which can be as high as $65.
  • Michigan Registry and Health and Safety Training runs around $10.
  • CPR/First Aid classes cost about $15
  • Other assorted costs, such as mileage to get to classes or fingerprinting locations, add another $10 or more.
“If it’s too cost prohibitive, people will just go down the street and apply for the $15 an hour jobs in a fast-food restaurant,” he says.

To combat the problem, Bay Area Community Foundation announced in mid-September that it would provide up to $100 per child care staff person to cover those upfront costs.

Grant funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis for the first 75 people looking for help. Recipients must be applying to work for licensed child care providers and non-Head Start program staff. Anyone applying needs to agree to work for at least 90 days. The grants are administered through the Bay-Arenac ISD.

“It’s hard enough to find quality child care,” Van Tol says, but to add costs to either the parents or a prospective employee creates more barriers.

Another grant is helping solve the other side of the problem. Once parents find a good child care center with openings for kids, they often can’t afford it. That creates a barrier to people getting back to work.

Van Tol says the Michigan Women’s Commission grant MI Tri-Share helps with the cost of child care expenses.

The $300,000 grant program works with qualifying employees, who work with participating employers to share child care expenses with the State of Michigan. Learn more about the program in this April 15 Route Bay City article.

The goal of each program is the same – removing the barriers to getting people back to work in the region.

To apply for the cost reimbursement grant, or for information on MI Tri-Share, contact Van Tol at (989) 233-8729.

“We want to make going back to work more affordable for everyone,” he says.