Poll: Nearly 2/3 of Mich. voters want more state funding for kids and families during pandemic

By: - September 21, 2021 3:48 am

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State lawmakers should increase public funding for children and families to address the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly two-thirds of Michiganders said in a recent statewide poll from the Skillman Foundation and Michigan’s Children.

Across the state’s geographical regions and demographic groups, there was an overwhelming consensus among the 800 likely voters surveyed that the state needs to back additional dollars going towards jobs and skills training programs, mental health initiatives, a reduction of youth in the criminal justice system, afterschool programs and affordable childcare.

“I want to give a headline: across this beautiful state of Michigan, across racial and ethnic lines, across geography and socio-economic stratospheres, there is a universality of a response to this poll that is very unique in this time of difference,” Skillman Foundation President and CEO Angelique Power said at the Mackinac Policy Conference Monday, when the results of the survey were unveiled. “There’s a call and a mandate that we center children and their needs.”

The Detroit-based Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy organization that advocates for youth in Detroit. A Lansing-based nonprofit, Michigan’s Children supports legislation and policies benefiting children across the state.

COVID-19 has torn through the lives of children and families, and addressing the challenges that the pandemic caused and illuminated means Lansing needs to step up with additional funding, Michigan’s Children President and CEO Matt Gillard said. 

“What we saw in the survey is that the general public in Michigan, Michigan voters, understand the pandemic has had a tremendously negative impact on children, and it’s going to take public investment and programming to support kids as we emerge from this,” Gillard said in an interview with the Michigan Advance.

The Michigan’s Children CEO said he’s pleased to see the increase in federal stimulus dollars coming to Michigan that is increasing funding for youth and families, including boosting dollars for affordable childcare. But, he emphasized, state lawmakers also need to increase funding for programs benefiting children — and not just this year.

“I think what we need to see moving forward is our state leaders also understanding that state investments are going to be required moving forward, that federal money isn’t going to continue to flow at the level it has,” Gillard said.

The Skillman Foundation President and CEO Angelique Power, left, and Michigan’s Children President and CEO Matt Gillard at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

The poll from the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation and the Lansing-based Michigan’s Children was conducted by Lake Research Partners from July 27 to Aug. 3. Of the 800 people surveyed, 62% said they backed increased public funding for children. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents reported they would vote to raise their taxes if it resulted in additional dollars going to programs supporting youth. Those involved in the survey said they were especially interested in backing investments for programs tackling mental health, trauma and poverty.

“Children’s mental health issues have largely been ignored by elected officials for a long time,” Gillard said during the presentation at the Mackinac conference. 

Out-of-school-time learning opportunities will also be “critically important” for lawmakers to fund as children continue to navigate an educational landscape marred by the pandemic, Gillard said. 

“We are going to have to mitigate the damage that’s been done for a whole generation of children who have lived through this pandemic,” Gillard said.

Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, said survey respondents were especially interested in more dollars going to families struggling to afford basic needs and addressing racial inequities in the state.

“What we see in the survey is Michigan is a little different than the nation in that it’s concerned about helping youth in households struggling to afford basic needs,” Lake said. “That’s a very intense concern in Michigan and across every demographic group.”

“Michigan is more committed to equity than voters nationwide,” Lake continued.

According to a recent Michigan Association of United Ways report, about 25% of the state’s population is living above the federal poverty level but struggles to pay for basic needs. An additional 10% of Michigan households were on the cusp of being unable to afford basic needs, meaning something like a trip to the emergency room without health insurance or a major car repair could result in financial disaster.

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Anna Gustafson
Anna Gustafson

Anna Gustafson is the assistant editor at Michigan Advance, where her beats include economic justice, health care and immigration. Previously the founder of the Muskegon Times and the editor at Rapid Growth Media in Grand Rapids, Anna has worked as an editor and reporter for news outlets across the country. She began her journalism career reporting on state politics in Wisconsin and has gone on to cover government, racial justice and immigration reform in New York City, education in Connecticut, the environment in Wyoming, and more. Previously, Anna lived in Argentina and Morocco, and, when she’s not working, she’s often trying to perfect the empanada and couscous recipes she fell in love with in these countries. You’ll likely also find her working on her century-old home in downtown Lansing, writing that ever-elusive novel and hiking throughout Michigan.