The COVID-19 pandemic could have had a devasting impact on child care providers and the low-income families who rely on Michigan’s Child Development and Care (CDC) assistance program. Recently, Public Policy Associates (PPA) released a report looking at the effect the pandemic had on the families receiving CDC assistance.

The report, The Effects of Covid-19 on Michigan Child Development and Care Program Usage, examines two forms of data to understand the CDC usage: program records and parent interviews. Combined, these sources helped to tell a more complete story of how child care assistance or subsidy use changed during this period. This was particularly important given the program policy change that allowed providers to bill the State based on child enrollment rather than attendance, as had been the pre-pandemic norm. The program data could tell one part of the story. How it impacted families was another key aspect to explore.

Some interesting findings showing the impact of the pandemic on child care assistance use include:

  • Children remained enrolled with their providers, but families experienced considerable volatility in actual care provided during 2021.
  • Through the child care subsidy, families can be authorized for 30, 60, or 90 hours of paid care. During the pandemic, more families received the highest amount (90 hours), with the lower amounts used less. These results suggest that CDC families used the program more intensively than previously.
  • During the pandemic, fewer first-time families dropped out in the early and middle months of the program than previously, indicating more persistent use of the program over time for new participants.

“Although the pandemic led to fewer families participating in the child care subsidy program, our research suggests that story isn’t quite so simple,” said Dr, Nathan Burroughs, Senior Methodologist from PPA. “We found evidence that many families preserved their link with their child care provider. We also saw continuing high rates of parent satisfaction with the program.”

As a supplement to the report, PPA prepared a brief discussing the research implications of a policy change that allowed providers to bill for enrollment rather than attendance, which made it more difficult to track hours in child care with administrative data and reinforced the importance of using mixed methods.

The study’s project director, Colleen Graber, noted, “This is a perfect illustration of how subtle differences in experience—as a child care provider or a parent—when looked at together, change our interpretation of what occurred.” 

You can read more of the findings from this important study here.

PPA is conducting this research through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Great Start and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

To learn more about PPA’s experience researching child care policy, please contact Colleen Graber at