BAY CITY, MI – The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a walk in the park for many child care facilities across the state. But thanks to some financial assistance, a Bay County facility stayed strong and is continuing to offer services to area families.
On Monday, June 27, Congressman Dan Kildee toured the Bay County Child and Senior Citizen Center at 1001 Marsac Street in Bay City. During his tour, he got to meet some of the senior citizens who participated in the facility’s adult day programming as well as some of the young kids who were playing games at the daycare program.
Just two years ago, such a tour would have been unheard of as the COVID-19 pandemic raged.
Kildee said that he visited the facility before the pandemic struck. Now, he returned to how the center is doing after going through COVID and how pandemic relief dollars played a role in keeping the programs operating.
“Even in the shadow of the pandemic, you can find these little points of light and this is one of them,” said Kildee.
The Bay County Child and Senior Citizen Center received financial assistance during the pandemic including $440,000 in child care stabilization grants as a part of the American Rescue Plan. The funding allowed the center to stay open while providing affordable child care for working families in the area.
After touring the facility and meeting some of its participants, Kildee met with workers and parents that were connected with the center to discuss topics such as how assistance funding kept the program going, what more can be done, and what the future could look like. The congressman also took time to praise the facility and its workers for its work.
“I just want to say thank you because if we had a 100 communities that sort of organized the way you all have right here in my district we’d all be better off,” he said.
During the roundtable, staff members and Kildee agreed that funding and programming such as ARPA, the paycheck protection program, child tax credits and more were instrumental in keeping the center afloat during the challenges caused by the pandemic.
“We wouldn’t have survived,” said Peggy Condon-Watson, executive director of the Bay County Child and Senior Citizen Center.
Since the center caters to both senior citizens and children, the pandemic posed an extra level of difficulty. In coordination with the Bay County Health Department, the center had to temporarily shutter its senior citizen programming during the pandemic for months. But, thanks to the money that the center received, it helped the senior citizen to survive and return, said staff.
Center board Director Robert Kienbaum said that it has been approximately three to four years since the facility has raised its rates, which is something that has helped give parents some stability and consistency amid the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“We all know what’s happening with the economy, everything’s gone up, and the fact that they know that their childcare costs are remaining stable I think is a big benefit,” he said. “Our most precious commodity or thing that we have is our children and we provide a loving safe environment which makes it easier for you folks to do your jobs because you don’t have to worry about what’s happening with the kids.”
Despite receiving federal and state aid, challenges still exist for daycare centers, parents and providers. MLive previously reported that the Center of American Progress estimates 101,713 Michigan parents made career sacrifices in 2021 due to issues with child care — up significantly from 76,666 parents in 2019.
It is estimated that 44% of Michigan’s population lives in a child care desert where there are not enough options and that, for those who do find care, the cost of child care for two children takes up 27% of Michigan families’ income, according to CAP.
“The biggest challenge is making sure their kids are well cared for and that’s why a program like this is so important,” Kildee said. “There are lots of challenges right now, obviously inflation as a result of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine is hurting everyone, but that is much more difficult when parents can’t access daycare that allows them to get back into the workforce and help to cover their costs, to pay their bills.”
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