Armed with new data on economic security, education and health outcomes, nonprofit officials hope an array of policy changes enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic to address children’s and families’ needs are made permanent.
The Michigan League for Public Policy today released new Kids Count in Michigan data profiles that track childhood poverty, educational attainment and health outcomes at the county, regional and state levels. The profiles also document outcomes in Detroit, Flint and — for the first time, with support from the Frey Foundation — Grand Rapids.
While the state continues to improve in child poverty, teen births, child abuse and neglect, nonprofit officials say room for growth remains around housing security and child care availability.
However, these areas for improvement also have received newfound state budget funding thanks to federal COVID-19 relief spending, including higher per-pupil school spending and a new landmark child care program in Michigan.
“The big picture is that we are trending in the right direction,” Kids Count in Michigan Director Kelsey Perdue told MiBiz.
Between 2010 and 2020, Michigan’s child poverty rate decreased nearly 28 percent statewide, yet 1.5 million Michigan households still can’t afford necessities, according to the Kids Count report.
In West Michigan, the child poverty rate has seen even greater improvement than the statewide average, dropping nearly 54 percent from 2010 to 2020 in Allegan, Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa counties.
“West Michigan as a region is doing better and seeing even greater gains” in reducing child poverty, Perdue said.
Being able to pull citywide data in Grand Rapids for the first time also highlighted “unique challenges” for the city compared to Kent County. Perdue specifically noted child poverty rates and housing costs being more acute in the city than the county overall.
“The Grand Rapids profile will provide a lot of value and insight on what’s going on specifically in the city as well as the context of the county and state,” Perdue said.
The report also makes several policy recommendations to ensure pandemic-related policy changes are permanent. That includes permanently expanding the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, as well as permanently raising Michigan’s income eligibility threshold for state child care subsidies to a minimum of 185 percent while increasing payments to providers.
The report also recommends eliminating barriers that prevent families from accessing safety net programs, adopting a weighted school funding formula, and supporting programs that help youth who are exiting the foster care system to access education, housing and work.
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