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Michigan aims to boost child care supply in the wake of MuckRock and partners' reporting
Teacher and children with face mask at school covid19 lesson after quarantine and lockdown by ShineTerra via Shutterstock

Last month, an investigation from MuckRock and a consortium of Michigan newsrooms showed that day care deserts in the state were far worse than policymakers realized.

Through public records requests, reporters identified 20 of these deserts—regions where three children compete for every available slot at a day care center—along with another 23 counties close to the threshold. Hundreds of child care providers in the state have closed during the pandemic, facing financial pressures and the challenges of mitigating COVID-19.

This week, Michigan officials announced a new initiative aiming to boost child care availability, potentially bringing it closer to pre-pandemic levels. Called Our Strong Start, the initiative pairs child care entrepreneurs with a staffer from Michigan's licensing agency who helps with paperwork and obtaining inspections.

About 300 potential providers attended a webinar about the new program, and 400 people filled out a form to get in touch with a navigator, according to Emily Laidlaw, director of child care licensing for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The state government is paying for navigators and other child care initiatives using funds from federal child care aid.

Text excerpted from reporting by Koby Levin and Derek Kravitz. Image by ShineTerra via Shutterstock.

Read more about the new initiative
Read the original investigation
The update 

MuckRock project wins INN award: Uncounted, MuckRock's investigation into the hidden death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic in collaboration with the USA TODAY network and other local newsrooms, won the Institute for Nonprofit News' Community Champion Award for Large Newsrooms. In their award announcement, the INN judges said, "This collaboration among five newsrooms revealed stark disparities in the way medical examiners reported cause of death during the pandemic and introduced a new method of analyzing mortality data." Congratulations to all the 2022 winners.

Jeremy Singer-Vine launches the Data Liberation Project: This new project is "an initiative to identify, obtain, reformat, clean, document, publish, and disseminate government datasets of public interest," essentially making currently-inaccessible government data easier for the public to find and use. Singer-Vine has already filed several data requests to federal agencies, with request letters shared publicly on DocumentCloud. For updates on the project, you can subscribe to its newsletter.

Boston uses its own tardiness to excuse closing requests: Earlier this year, the city of Boston's public records office closed several requests due to "no recent activity" on the requests—after the records office itself had failed to act on those requests for months—reports Sean Philip Cotter at the Boston Herald. City officials suggested these request closures were rare, but the activity is still another example of far-from-transparent behavior at a "notoriously unresponsive public records office," Cotter writes.

FOIA finds  & top docs 

For The Record was written by Betsy Ladyzhets and edited by André Natta.

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