Like many states, Michigan adopted an aggressive package of child care policies in an effort to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Faced with the prospect of damaging disruptions in the child care sector, the state offered generous benefits to child care providers and families. A key priority of the state was preserving recent gains in the expansion of the federally supported child care assistance program (in Michigan, the Child Development and Care, or CDC, program). Through increased eligibility and waived co-payments for families and allowing providers to bill based on enrollment rather than attendance (among other policies), CDC administrators sought to stabilize the program during the crisis.
As part of a federally funded research partnership with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Public Policy Associates used state administrative and other data to explore the success of these policies. In prior work, the research team found that while total enrollment in the program had declined, use of the subsidy, continuity of care with a particular provider, and provider quality ratings for CDC program participants were quite similar during key time points before and during the pandemic. These findings raise two important questions, addressed in this brief:
- What was the long-term impact of COVID-19 and COVID-related policies on Michigan’s child care assistance program? Did 2021 represent a “return to normal” or significant recovery, or did it herald lasting changes?
- What explains the apparent difference between case-level findings (showing similarities between 2019 and 2020) and lower total CDC caseloads (indicating a significant change)?