On June 28, the Detroit Regional Chamber co-hosted a live webinar that offered employers a chance to learn how they can participate in Michigan’s Tri-Share program and offer child care support to their employees. In a critical time for talent attraction and retention, Tri-Share is one solution to attracting and retaining talent and addresses one of the largest barriers to employment.
During the webinar, Cheryl Bergman, chief executive officer of the Michigan Women’s Commission led a presentation about the Tri-Share program, followed by discussions about employer perspectives and working with facilitator hubs. The discussions were led by Erica Phelps, health and wellbeing specialist at Shape Corporation, Catrina Rule, Tri-Share program manager at Goodwill West Michigan, and Jeanette Hoyer, president and chief executive officer at Goodwill West Michigan.
What is Tri-Share?
Bergman introduced Tri-Share as an innovative public-private partnership that shares child care costs between employees, employers, and the State of Michigan. Initially conceptualized by the Grand Rapids Chamber, Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-MI 91), and a coalition of business and community partners, the pilot program’s mission is to provide Michigan families with access to reliable and affordable child care to remove barriers to employment.
“The Michigan Women’s Commission got involved in late 2019 and early 2020. We traveled the state asking women what their priorities were,” Bergman said. “Wherever we went, from Grand Rapids to Detroit to Flint to Traverse City, it was all economic security issues. They were citing paid leave, a pathway to higher wage jobs, and pay equity. But at the top of their list wherever we went was affordable, accessible child care.”
With over 300,000 Michigan women having left the workforce between Feb. 2020 and Dec. 2021, this has started the conversation among policymakers and the business community about child care as an economic driver and not just a family decision.Since March 2021, with investment from the state, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Ballmer Group, Tri-Share has expanded its service area to 13 pilot regions which include 59 counties and the City of Detroit.
Tri-Share benefits employers by:
- Helping with employee recruitment and retention
- Removing a significant barrier to employment
- Developing and strengthening the talent pipeline
Tri-Share benefits working parents by:
- Providing financial relief by reducing out-of-pocket child care costs
- Alleviating the burden of finding available licensed child care by providing solutions or readily accepting existing licensed child care providers
- Removing a barrier to seeking and maintaining employment
Tri-Share benefits child care providers by:
- Depositing regular payments collected from the employer, employee, and the state from Tri-Share’s hub
- Assisting in the promotion of child care services
- Engaging in a program that aims to improve and expand future funding for childcare
Tri-Share’s model relies on facilitator hubs to serve as the central point of connection by recruiting employers to participate, assisting employers with recruiting eligible employees, helping eligible employees find licensed child care providers, and collecting payment from employers, employees, and the state.
Bergman closed by highlighting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal to open 1,000 new child care programs by the end of 2024 because “it doesn’t matter how much child care costs if you can’t find it in your neighborhood,” she said.
An Employer’s Perspective
Phelps is the health and wellbeing specialist at Shape Corporation, a Tier 1 automotive supplier in Grand Haven. Her company was one of Tri-Share’s early participants that joined in January 2022 after struggling to develop a child care solution independently. Phelps shared that in addition to the program’s income eligibility criteria, employers can instate their own requirements, such as type of employment and length of time with the company. Shape Corporation has been flexible with work schedules, Phelps explained, citing an example of an employee whose poor attendance was directly related to his lack of child care which has improved since participating in the program.
Phelps shared that Shape Corporation’s participation in Tri-Share has been an overall positive experience. While they have primarily used it as an employee retention tool up to this point, they intend to incorporate it into their recruitment tactics in the future, considering the 100% positive feedback they have received from employees.
Working with Facilitator Hubs
The Tri-Share program utilizes facilitator hubs to administer the program in 12 regions and serves as the central liaison to facilitate connections between employers, employees, and providers. Goodwill of West Michigan was the first in the state to begin executing the program. Its president and chief executive officer, Jeanette Hoyer, said the hub functions to educate and enroll child care providers and employers into the program to ensure clear expectations.
As part of the enrollment process, hubs assist in determining an employer’s level of financial commitment and additional eligibility criteria. Employees serve as a third party when determining eligibility so that HR doesn’t get access to their personal household income information. Hoyer emphasized that successful connections are created and maintained through consistent and clear communication with all participants.
Although, Rule, Goodwill of West Michigan’s Tri-Share program manager, said that to keep communication seamless when determining eligibility, they connect through employers first since they know best what additional requirements are necessary and whether an employee is meeting them.
“Engaging with the employers for me is basically having lots and lots of communication and ensuring them that they do not have to do all the work,” Rule said. “I will do all of it. All that I need for them to do is put it out there that Tri-Share is available through their organization.”
When asked what the average costs per person that the participating agency is expected to cover, Hoyer said, “we are making the assumption that child care costs $10,500 annually, so the employee and the employer would each pay about $3,500 per year.” She emphasized that this is just an estimate and that child care costs may vary based on the child’s age and the type of child care facility.