MI Tri-Share Child Care program gives boost to families and Blue Water Area businesses

With a shortage in local child care options which can pose obstacles to employees seeking to enter or remain in the workforce, a regional initiative that shares the cost of child care is proving to be a crucial asset for families and St. Clair County businesses.

Bruce Seymore, Vice President, Business Services for the Economic Development Alliance (EDA) of St. Clair County, says that in recent years St. Clair County has experienced a substantial decline in child care slots that are available through existing programs in the county, amounting to approximately 40%. Seymore says the shortage has designated St. Clair County as a child care desert.

Bruce Seymore, Vice President, Business Services for the Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County.“There are at least three children for every one available slot in the county,” he says. “So with that, we have been focusing on different programs and resources available to increase the number of child care options for our working families, to provide them with support and assistance in getting back into the labor force following the pandemic.”

One of those focuses was to bring the MI Tri-Share Child Care Program to the region. Launched in March 2021, the program was designed with the dual purpose of increasing the affordability of child care for parents and helping businesses attract and retain workforce talent by dividing child care costs equally between the state, eligible families, and their employers.

“By lowering the cost of child care by two-thirds, it helps alleviate a strong, large financial obligation that working families have and allows them to move that money into other areas to support their families,” Seymore says.

According to a January 2023 brief from The Women’s Bureau through the U.S. Department of Labor, “reducing out-of-pocket childcare expenses for families can make employment possible as formal care costs are prohibitively high for some families.”

In St. Clair County, data from the United States Census Bureau reveals that the median household income is $66,887 (2018-2022) and nearly 13% of the population lives in poverty.

“The Economic Development Alliance has heard from companies and also from job seekers that child care is an obstacle for individuals to rejoin the workforce since the pandemic,” Seymore says.

Seymore says in 2022, the state began accepting new applications to the program so the EDA worked with St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) to put together an application. The application was accepted and the program launched in St. Clair County in June 2022.

“Child care costs, on average, can be anywhere from $9-11,000 a year,” he says. “So it is a substantial investment and this program provides some real cost savings to working families.”

Tri-Share Child Care St. Clair County employer/employee eligibility and benefits.

In St. Clair County, participating businesses include the Marshall E. Campbell Company, Magna Electric Vehicle Structures, Blue Water Community Action, St. Clair County Community Mental Health, PTM Corporation, Jill J. Gillhooley, DDS, PLLC (Gillhooley Dental), BMJ Engineers & Surveyors, Inc., and M.L. Chartier.

Kim Woolman, HR/Quality Manager for the Marshall E. Campbell Company, says the company joined the program in the fall of 2022 and has several employees participating.

“One of the main things that we try to do is make sure that we're supporting our people and what their needs are,” says Woolman. “Being a family-run company and being extremely family-oriented, our people are our family … This was just kind of a no-brainer.”

Port Huron resident Nick Pitre is the Branch Manager of Marshall E. Campbell Company’s location in Lapeer. He and his wife Kayleigh have utilized the Tri-Share program for their 4-year-old son Brayden since November 2022. He says before then, family members helped with Brayden’s care.

“We live a couple of miles from her mom and my mom and it was really a perfect situation we had, the grandparents were happy,” Pitre says. “And then COVID hits and her stepfather passed away, so then her mother had to go back to work.”

He expressed gratitude for the program being available in St. Clair County and for his employer’s participation.

“I've had conversations with other people within my company about it, let them know that it’s a great program and everything was smooth and easy,” Pitre says. “I’m just extremely thankful for the program and that Marshall Campbell decided to join in.”

2023 Marshall E. Campbell Company team photo.

Woolman reflects on the program's positive impact on their company, particularly as their workforce trends younger with many employees starting families.

“We're kind of in this transition period where we have lots of different generations of people working for us and a big group of our new people have families,” Woolman says. “So this affected quite a few people.”

She praised the efficiency and collaboration between RESA, the daycare facilities, and employees, remarking on its ease of operation.

“It's been a very smooth process,” she says. “So I can attest to a business, if they're worried about how it works and the logistics of it, that has been very, very smooth.”

To participate in the program, businesses must have a physical location in St. Clair County and create a new employee benefit covering 33.33% of the cost of child care for eligible employees with dependent children under 13 years of age.

“We invite anyone who's interested to reach out to have a conversation and see how we can utilize this program to help them support our working families here in St. Clair County,” Seymore says.

For more information about program requirements or to fill out an interest form, visit edascc.com/business-support/tri-share-child-care-program.
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Read more articles by Liz Fredendall.

Liz Fredendall is a photojournalist and communications professional with nonprofit experience. During her free time, she enjoys reading and exploring the Blue Water Area with her husband Erick and their corgi, Nori. Contact Liz at editor@thekeelph.com or follow her on Instagram @lizfredendallphoto.