When the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) increased the number of publicly-funded slots for low-income children to attend preschool there were some unexpected consequences for a handful of families in the Traverse Bay region. While the number of slots increased, the income cut-off decreased from 300 percent to 250 percent of the federal poverty level. That left 12 families who had been promised free GSRP preschool in their local districts before the rule change facing tuition payments on a mandatory sliding scale.
Fortunately, there is a remedy thanks to a major donation from Consumers Energy Foundation (CEF).
Earlier this year CEF donated a total of $71,000 to four Great Start Collaboratives in northern lower Michigan to support local improvements in quality and access to childcare and early education. The Great Start Collaborative of Traverse Bay region share was $30,000, which was designated to provide emergency scholarships to families who needed help to pay for childcare and/or preschool during life-changing events as well as to provide monthly subsidies to low-income working families.
The amount needed is not large, as $1,425 will cover the tuition payments for all families for the year. But it makes a big difference for families who fell in the gap this year. So the next time you pay your Consumers Energy bill, know that in a small but significant way you are helping children get a great start in life.
For more information on local and state-wide economic impacts of early childhood and to get involved, contact Great Start at the Chamber: Mary Manner firstname.lastname@example.org or 231-995-7114.