Commentary

Column: An investment in moms is an investment in Michigan

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Earlier this month, I celebrated Mother’s Day with two of our three sons and all four of our grandsons. While there was much joy on that day, I was thinking of the challenges that many moms in Michigan face. And the opportunities to improve things for moms and their kids in Michigan.

We are in the heat of the Michigan state budget process and there are a number of ways state spending can impact moms and their kids in a positive way. Early care for pregnant people and young children can have the greatest impact toward good outcomes. 

Home Visiting programs, serving pregnant people and families with kids 5 and under, support the healthy development of infants, toddlers, and new families with visits to the home. It’s essential that the Legislature continue funding to support these families and look to expansion for these programs.

At the Michigan League for Public Policy, one of the things we hear most from our community partners is about the challenges of affordable and accessible childcare. Tremendous strides in childcare assistance were made last year, but many of them are not permanent. Data shows that when parents are not able to work because of lack of childcare, kids are more likely to live in poverty. There are lifelong impacts for those children, particularly children of color. 

We must make permanent the improved childcare eligibility and reimbursements rates for providers that were adopted in the current budget.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard the stories of long lines for food for families in need. Food banks and nonprofits have struggled to meet the demand. As the Legislature works on the state budget, they can help meet the need for food for families. This includes keeping healthy food affordable for families, schools and child care centers through continued support for the Double Up Food Bucks and 10 Cents a Meal programs

Double Up Food Bucks is a public-private partnership that allows Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) users to double up to $20 per day in benefits spent on Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables at participating grocery stores and farmers markets. And 10 Cents a Meal provides incentives for school districts and child care centers to purchase Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.

There’s also been a discussion in Lansing about increasing Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to up to 30% of the federal credit. The tax credit helps working families and has a particularly positive impact on kids and women, including moms. Strong state EITCs contribute to higher birth weights and fewer premature births and infant deaths, thanks in part to greater access to prenatal care. Women receiving larger EITC benefits are more likely to report good health and research shows that the EITC helps mothers enter and remain in the labor force.

The revenue projections announced at Friday’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference and the subsequent spending priorities will be a legacy-defining moment for Michigan leaders. 

Current revenue projections allow the state to create a forward-looking budget for Michigan that works for all of its residents, and as the Legislature works toward its goal of a state budget in place by July 1, the League hopes that their decisions will prioritize Michigan’s moms and children.

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Karen Holcomb-Merrill
Karen Holcomb-Merrill

Karen Holcomb-Merrill is Chief Operating Officer with the Michigan League for Public Policy. Previously, she was Public Policy Consultant for Tobacco-Free Michigan and Executive Director of Common Cause in Michigan for 14 years.

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