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Frequently Asked Questions

Grant guidelines, with detailed information about what the grant is, who is eligible, how to apply, what the money can be used for, and more, can be downloaded in ENGLISH, SPANISH, ARABIC.

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Who is Eligible to Apply | Pre-Qualification Application | Project Application | About CFMF FIF Grant | Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations | New Questions

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Who is Eligible to Apply

Who is eligible for the grant money?

Licensed early child care providers, serving children age 0-12, located in the State of Michigan who are one of the following:

  • Newly licensed providers whose licenses have been issued on or after May 1, 2022
  • Existing providers who have expanded their licensed capacity as of May 1, 2022
  • Existing providers who are currently in the process of expanding their licensed capacity
  • Licensed family child care homes or group child care homes with an approved capacity variance from Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA)

Applicant must provide proof of ownership (deed/mortgage) or a lease showing at least 2 years of occupancy remaining as well as the legal right to make changes to the physical building. Head Start and Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) may be eligible if they also provide tuition-based child care.

Preference will be given to providers in high need areas and those serving low-income families.

If you’re not licensed, Our Strong Start (OSS) is focused on helping new providers navigate licensing and helping other initial needs. As part of Caring for MI Future, OSS also has funds available for pre-licensure and start up.

Who is considered a “new” provider?

A new provider is a provider receiving a newly issued license from CCLB on or after May 1, 2022.

What does “expanding provider” mean?

An existing provider who is increasing their capacity of children to be served. A provider can be expanding by:

  • Changing their license type and expanding capacity through the Caring for MI Future grant
  • Receiving a license variance through LARA/Child Care Licensing
  • Expanding their licensed capacity at an existing facility

Pre-Qualification Application

When will the application open?

The Pre-Qualification Application is now open and can be accessed at apply.iff.org. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

When does the application close?

Below are the key opening and closing dates.

  • November 3, 2022: Applications Open. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
  • March 30, 2024: Last day to submit a Pre-Qualification Application
  • April 30, 2024: Last day to submit a Project Application
  • July 31, 2024: All projects must be completed, and final reports submitted for payment
Why are there so many documents required with the application?

By law, many facilities projects require proper permits, certifications, and licensing. These things are being asked for up front to help ensure the progress of your project isn’t delayed unnecessarily, and to protect your business from any repercussions.

Early Childhood Education supports one of our most vulnerable populations – children 0-5 years old. Many of the documents requested are to ensure, as much as possible, that all parties involved are operating in the best interest of the children who will be served in the facility.

Can I submit more than one Pre-Qualification application?

Yes. You can submit one Pre-Qualification application per license. If you hold multiple valid licenses meeting the criteria of CFMF FIF you can submit one application per license

How do I prove I have the legal right to make changes to the property?

More information about how to prove you have the legal right to make changes to the property can be found here.

What insurance do I need to upload for the Pre-Qualification application?

Please provide proof of general liability or property insurance. Sufficient documentation includes a certificate, portion of your policy, or insurance form that shows: 

  • Valid Dates of coverage 
  • Address matches facility site address 
  • Name of business or provider matches application 
Do I need to have a registered business? What is a sole proprietor?

Home child care license holders are not required to have a business entity with the State of Michigan.

If you have not registered as a business, you do not need a legal business name, you will instead use your name. 

If you have a child care license but have not registered your business with the state, you are considered a sole proprietor

Similarly, if you have a child care license and have obtained a Doing Business As from the county, you are still considered a sole proprietor. If your business is a registered entity, you should be able to find it using the LARA search link https://cofs.lara.state.mi.us/SearchApi/Search/Search.

Project Application

How much funding can I apply for?

Early childhood education centers are able to receive up to $150,000 per licensed location. Family and group child care homes are able to receive up to $50,000 per licensed location. Eligible providers who have been approved through the Phase I: Pre-Qualification process may apply as many times as they wish, but must submit a new Phase II: Project Application each time.

What can the grant money be used for?

Applicants may apply for a grant to complete minor facility repairs, minor renovations, and to purchase related equipment and services, for indoor or outdoor areas, such as renovating bathrooms, installing railings and ramps to improve physical accessibility, painting, flooring, furniture, and furnishings.

Prohibited uses include new construction or major renovation of facilities defined as structural changes to the foundation, roof, floor, exterior or load-bearing walls of a facility, or the extension of a facility to increase its floor area.

Funds cannot be used for reimbursement of work completed before the grant is awarded.

A full list of eligible and ineligible uses can be found here.

How do I decide which facilities improvements to apply for?

When deciding what facilities improvement projects to apply for, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it required by licensing?
  • Is it a repair required or recommended by my business insurance?
  • Does it make the environment safer? (Updates related to COVID and other health/safety issues)
  • Does it directly benefit the children in my care?
Should I engage a vendor/contractor? And tips for working with contractors. 

For detailed instructions on working with a vendor/contractor, click here

Where can I find a contractor or architect?

LARA, the State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, has provided access to a database of state licensed contractors that providers can use when looking for tradespeople. The database is available at this link.

Click here for list of contractors that have already registered through the Submittable portal.

Please note, contractors are not guaranteed to be available or willing to take on projects and CFMF FIF cannot make any recommendations or warranties of a contractor’s work. 

Click here for the Contractor FAQ.

What can I use for proof of property insurance?

Acceptable documentation includes a certificate, portion of your policy, or insurance form that shows: 

  • Valid dates of coverage 
  • Address matches facility site address 
  • Name of business or provider matches application 
Why do I need to provide two kinds of proof of insurance?

The two different insurance documents, provide different things.

  • General liability insurance is required to protect the people doing the work. Property insurance to protect the actual property.
  • A licensed contractor should also carry their own insurance for any work being performed. Asking a contractor for their proof of insurance helps protect your business.
What should a vendor/contractor bid look like?

For detailed instructions on working with vendors or contractors, including obtaining bids, click here

My entire home, except for the main bedroom/bathroom, is licensed approved and shared space; the space is not solely used for child care alone. Will my space qualify?

Yes, but improvements must be for the use of the child care program.

Can I do the work myself?

Depending on the project, work can be “self-performed” which means completed by the applicant or by an immediate family member or member of the household. However, if the project requires a licensed contractor (projects such as electrical, mechanical, plumbing,) then it cannot be self-performed.

A list of registered contractors can be found here.

Why do I need to complete more than one Project Application? 

More than one application may be needed to manage multiple scopes of work. This will allow us to pay vendors directly, more easily track project updates and make needed changes as we move forward.

How do I know how many Project Applications I need to complete? 

If you intend to hire multiple contractors (not managed through a general contractor or project manager), each contracted scope of work will require a separate Project Application in order to receive grant funding. The examples below will help you understand how many applications you may need. 

Example A (1 application): I plan to hire a General Contractor to manage the full scope of work for this project. I am not required to hire an Architect. I do not plan to purchase any materials or equipment on my own. I can work with a General Contractor to complete 1 project application. 

Example B (3 applications): I plan to hire a General Contractor to manage the full scope of work for this project and I am required to hire an architect for stamped drawings. I also plan to directly order furniture and equipment online. I will work with a General Contractor to complete one (1) project application for the Scope of Work he or she will manage. I will work with an Architect to complete a second project application for the Scope of Work he or she will manage. I will complete a third project application to describe and apply for the furniture and equipment I plan to order myself.

Example C (1 Application): I plan to purchase furniture from Lakeshore and Discount School Supply and flooring and installation from Home Depot. The materials and installation from Home Depot are all paid directly to Home Depot. I will complete one (1) project application and a total estimate of project cost.

Example D (4 Applications): I plan to purchase furniture from Lakeshore, hire a painter to paint, an HVAC specialist to replace my furnace, and an additional contractor to replace my windows. I will complete one (1) application for the purchase from Lakeshore, one (1) application for the painting scope of work, one (1) application for the HVAC scope of work, and one (1) application for the window scope of work, for a total of four (4) separate applications. 

About CFMF FIF Grant

What is Caring for MI Future?

Caring for MI Future is a $100 million investment that will help more Michigan families find quality, affordable child care in their community by opening 1,000 new or expanded child care programs by the end of 2024. This initiative, led by the Michigan Departments of Education and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (MDE & LARA), is part of a larger effort to expand access to quality, affordable child care for families, focusing on what entrepreneurs need most to open and expand child care businesses. To learn more visit https://www.michigan.gov/caringformifuture.

What is Our Strong Start (OSS)?

Our Strong Start (OSS) is part of the Caring for MI Future project, focused on recruiting new child care entrepreneurs and helping current child care businesses expand. OSS offers a team of trained navigators who will connect child care entrepreneurs with grant opportunities and work with potential child care entrepreneurs to troubleshoot any concerns they may have about starting or expanding their child care business. OSS has technical assistance tool kits, trainings, and other resources to prepare new or expanding child care business owners to meet their goals.

What is IFF? How are they involved?

IFF is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that champions nonprofits to shape more equitable and vibrant communities through community-centered lending, development, and real estate consulting. From an early childhood education center to affordable homes, a community health center to a local theatre company, IFF works at the intersection of facilities and finance to deliver more capital to more changemakers, more problem-solving for system-level challenges, and more investment impact across the Midwest so nonprofits, and the communities they serve, can thrive.

IFF is committed to increasing access to quality early childhood education for all children by creating and supporting safe and inspiring spaces, especially in communities where it is most needed. To learn more visit www.iff.org/ece

IFF received $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, awarded by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) as part of the Caring for MI Future initiative. Caring for MI Future is a $100 million investment that will help more Michigan families find quality, affordable child care in their community by opening 1,000 new, or expanded, child care programs by the end of 2024.

How will the amount of funding be determined?

All applications will be reviewed by a Review Committee comprised of IFF staff with final determinations made by the Michigan Department of Education. The Review Committee will use the following criteria to evaluate Project Applications to ensure they meet the criteria for CFMF FIF funding.

Project Eligibility: 

  • Is the proposed project located within the state of Michigan?
  • Does the project meet the definition of “Minor Repairs/Renovations”?
  • Does the project increase the capacity of the facility OR was it submitted by a new provider?
  • Are costs “reasonable” in relation to the work being performed?
Are the grant dollars being equitably allocated to the 10 regions of the state? If so, how is that being determined?

The State has yet to define what “high needs” means to them. This definition will be used to inform allocations. We’re tracking the rate of applications by county as they come in and, ideally, will adjust outreach to encourage areas where we see fewer than expected applications, based on the number of eligible providers in that area.

Will the amount of remaining funds be communicated?

Yes, the exact way this will be communicated is to be determined, but ideally on the website during a set time frame (ie. quarterly or every 90 days)

How is IFF helping to get dollars out the door prior to the state's deadline? Keeping in mind that some work may not be completed, due to contractors being delayed 4-8+ months

We are intentionally closing the application in April 2024 for this reason. This will allow for approximately 5 months for projects to receive the final allotment of funding. However, applicants will be advised to pay close attention to the timeline suggested in their scope of work to ensure the final payment will be received by September 2024, which is when IFF is obligated to have liquidated all funds.

Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations

View Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations

Applicant an eligible provider applying for CFMF FIF

Awardee – an applicant once their application has been approved

CFMF FIF Caring for MI Future: Facilities Improvement Fund

Contractor any tradesperson hired to complete project work including, but not limited to, project managers, general contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc. – and/or any third-party business where building supplies, classroom furniture, or other associated materials for the project are purchased (i.e. Home Depot). For guidance on working with contractors, please see the Contractor Frequently Asked Questions.

Expanding provider  An existing provider who is increasing their capacity of children to be served. A provider can be expanding by:

  • Changing their license type and expanding capacity through the Caring for MI Future grant
  • Receiving a license variance through LARA/Child Care Licensing
  • Expanding their licensed capacity at an existing facility

Grant Agreement – a contractual agreement outlining the responsibilities of the Awardee, timelines for payment, and reporting expectations.

IFF – the organization facilitating CFMF FIF

LARA State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

Minor Repairs/Renovations –

New construction – Building a new building or increasing the footprint of an existing building. Neither of which are allowed.

New provider a provider receiving a newly issued license from CCLB on or after May 1, 2022.

OSS – Our Strong Start (OSS), part of the Caring for MI Future project, focused on recruiting new child care entrepreneurs and helping current child care businesses expand.

Regional Partner Great Start to Quality Resource Centers, and others, who IFF is contracted with for information sharing and support for providers statewide.

Scope of work – a document that outlines the type of project, materials and services, timeline, and benchmarks for completing the project.

Self-perform – completing work by oneself or by an immediate family member or member of the household, instead of

Technical Assistance (TA) – the process of providing support to providers to learn more about submitting their application to CFMF FIF, ask questions, and gain resources about the importance of quality facilities in child care.

New Questions

The following are questions asked during technical assistance sessions or via email. The date the question was received is noted in parenthesis.

If my basement is only for emergency use, can I have my laundry area walled in and finished since I use it for childcare? (12.12.22)

If the children are not using the basement space, walling in that area would not be eligible. A washer or dryer would be eligible. 

Does equipment include cribs, changing tables, buggies, storage cabinets? (12.12.22)

Yes, all of these are included in eligible equipment.

If my kitchen is not licensed for child use (because it is not accessible to children), but I use it for meal prep and child care food storage, am I able to request fixtures and new cabinets? (12.12.22)

Yes, this is eligible.

If I want to create a child size toilet area off of an existing bathroom, will the plumbing for a new toilet, and sink be allowed? (12.12.22)

The cost of a child size toilet and sink would be allowed but not the new plumbing. You could replace the toilet or sink with a child size toilet, but not expand the bathroom to include new fixtures. If you have funding from somewhere else to pay for the new plumbing, you could still receive funding from this grant for the sink and toilet. 

Does a contractor need to be licensed and insured in order to receive payment for labor? (12.12.22)

Contractors need to be licensed to perform work for which your municipalities requires licensed contractors. Typically this is electrical, plumbing, or HVAC, but check with your municipality. If you or a family member completes the work then it is not an eligible expense.

Contractors must register in the contractor database, which can be found here.

Can funds be used to cover work that was already done and paid for? (12.13.22)

No. Unfortunately, we are unable to reimburse any completed work. 

Do we have to take the lowest bid? (12.13.22)

You do not have to choose the lowest bid, per say. You will want to review all scopes received to make sure they are the same and you are comparing apples to apples. If you choose not to go with the lowest bid, you will need to explain why in your application

Where can I find the registered contractors? (12.13.22)
What if virtually no labor is involved? For example, we could use a new commercial refrigerator that has freezer space as well. It only needs to be ordered, shipped, and plugged in. It comes ready to plug in. (12.14.22)

This would fall under the Tier I category. If you order it from a supplier (i.e. Lowes) and they send out a contractor to install it, but your transaction is 100% through Lowes, this is still considered Tier I. 

Do we need to submit two estimates for products/equipment/appliances bought from a store/supplier? (12.14.22)

For anything that falls in the Tier I category (i.e. anything you are buying directly from a supplier such as Lakeshore, Discount Supply, Home Depot, Lowes) you only need to submit one proof of cost. This may be an invoice or a photo of an online shopping cart.

If I am applying for something I (the provider) will buy and have a contractor install, such as acoustic wall panels, does the place of purchase need to register? And what is the payment schedule? (12.14.22)

The ideal option is to have the contractor purchase the supplies, then you (the provider) would have one application. The contractor would receive the payment directly in two parts: 50% when the grant agreement is in place and the other 50% once the project is completed.

If you (the provider) choose to buy materials separately you would need to complete one application for the materials and full payment would be issued to you. You would then need to submit a second application for the contractor work.

Keep in mind, the minimum amount per application is $1,000. 

Where do I go to get started if I'm not licensed? (12.20.22)

Our Strong Start (OSS) is focused on helping new providers navigate licensing and helping other initial needs. As part of Caring for MI Future, OSS also has funds available for pre-licensure.

What if an item is no longer available or the cost of the item has changed before funds are awarded? (1.17.23)

Once your project is approved, you will have an opportunity to make adjustments based on product availability and price changes before funds are released.

Are tools to help me perform the work myself eligible? (1.17.23)

No. If you do not have the tools necessary to perform the work, you should submit a Tier II application with a contractor.  

Do we have to serve infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in order to qualify? Or does serving children in part of the age range 0-12 allow us to qualify? The prequalification application requires me to answer how many classrooms are for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers and the number of children in each classroom. (1.17.23)

No, you do not have to serve infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in order to qualify. Programs serving schoolaged children are eligible. On the application, enter the total number of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers served. It is not required to enter numbers for older children. 

Does my center have to be up and running? I was under the impression that I had to have a location and license number to apply for the grant. I just purchased my building, and I could really use the help from IFF to get my center up and running. (1.19.23)

You are required to have a license number, the legal right to make changes to the property, and valid insurance. If you have all of these, when we get your application, we will confirm with LARA you are working with a Licensing Consultant to get your space up and running. Upon their confirmation you would be approved.

Can I start my application process for the facilities grant if I have a building and I have received the pre-licensure grant, but need the facilities grant to make the facility licensed? (1.19.23)

Yes. Isn’t that wonderful! 

Are any educational toys eligible? How about toys they ride on, like trikes? (1.23.23)

Unfortunately, no. Educational materials, toys, and trikes would be ineligible under “Program support and materials.” Classroom fixtures and furniture such as cabinets, tables, childsize chairs, play sets, and other items that are fixed, such as a water table or sensory table, would be eligible.  

Does replacing siding or roofing qualify for FIF grant funds? (1.23.23)

Repairing or replacing sections of siding or roofing is eligible. Complete replacement or any repairs that require structural work is not eligible.  

In replacing insulation, would upgrading to a spray foam application be a qualified expense? (1.23.23)

Insulation for interior renovations is eligible. Installation or replacing insulation that potentially could require structural work, such as wrap insulation installed under your home’s siding, would not be eligible. 

I have a current standing deck that needs repairs. Can I fix it by using replacement composite decking, which will be cleaner and safer for the daycare kids to use? (1.23.23)

Yes. As part of repairs to an existing deck, you can replace boards, railings, etc. Composite decking is an eligible material.  

Does my application become ineligible if repairing my driveway requires a contractor to dig up and replace segments? (2.28.23)

Driveway repair, resurfacing must show a safety concern noted by licensing, or your insurance company. We would need to review the scope of work or contractor’s proposal for a final decision. Additionally, if your driveway is used for outdoor play spaces, repairs may be eligible.​

If my lease or deed is in my spouse’s name, do I need to provide any additional documentation? (1.23.23)

No. Simply note your relationship in the application.   

Would funds be available for warranty for appliances purchased through the grant? (1.25.23)

Warranties for items in the project proposal are eligible. Warranties or extended warranties for items not included in the project proposal are not eligible.  

Would adding or expanding a roof without walls to provide shade be eligible? (1.25.23)

Any new built structural expansion or new building would not be eligible. Repair or replacement of parts of existing structures for safety would qualify.  

Prefabricated shade units or shade sails are eligible.  

Do I need to have a business plan? (1.26.23)

We will not be collecting a business plan for review. However, a plan would be required if you are selected by the state for an audit at some point in the future. That’s why we are requiring you to commit to completing a plan within the next 6 months. 

A strong business plan helps child care administrators manage operational objectives such as payroll, facilities costs, and growth. First Children’s Finance – as part of Caring MI Future – offers FREE business planning support for new and expanding child care providers. Get connected with a business development specialist in your region by filling out this form.

As a school district, what documents should I double check to avoid pre-qualification delays? (2.6.23)

Insurance certificate: Make sure your insurance certificate lists the facility the grant will go toward, not just your headquarters. Your insurance agent can add the facility to the document for you.

Deed: Make sure the deed you provide is a recorded copy from the county and includes a street address. Depending on the age of the deed, it may have only a legal description. If this is the case, in addition to your deed, include a letter with the facility’s street address and confirmation it is owned by your district.

What happens if I’ve been approved for the grant but then cost of materials or project changes or the items I requested are no longer available? What happens if when the project is completed it turns out to have cost less than the amount I was awarded? 02.13.23

Once your project application has been approved, you will receive a Supplemental Information form. This form allows you to adjust your request including replacing unavailable items with a similar one or adjusting costs.

Any unspent grant funds will need to be returned to the state.

Is installation of a whole home generator an eligible expense? (2.21.23)

Purchase of generators, including whole home generators, are eligible expenses.

Installation of a generator is not eligible unless you have existing infrastructure for it. In this case, infrastructure includes: transfer switch, voltage regulators, gas lines, electric conduit and lines, gas meter, etc. Under the federal guidelines for these funds, installation of new infrastructure is considered a major renovation and therefore not eligible.

Are summer or seasonal programs eligible? (2.28.23)

As long as they meet the Pre-Qualification criteria, seasonal programs are eligible.

I've been awarded funds, but I don't see them in SIGMA. (2.28.23)

FIF grant funds will be sent directly to your bank account, not SIGMA.

I heard in a webinar that we should cushion the prices on our application. Why is my application getting returned for the prices not matching? (2.28.23)

We have recommended that rather than applying for exactly the maximum amount of the grant, that providers give themselves a cushion in case prices increase and they have to adjust their application with the Supplemental Information Form. For example, if a home-based provider has projects that cost $50,000 (the maximum) and the price of some items increase before they are able to purchase them, grant funds cannot cover those cost increases.

The amount of funding you request must match the receipts, estimates, or scope of work in your application.

My contractor is requesting more than 50% payment up front. Is this possible? (3.7.23)

The grant’s payment structure of 50% at start and 50% on completion is not changeable.

Is installing and hooking up a dishwasher considered new plumbing and therefore ineligible? (3.8.23)

Hooking into existing infrastructure is eligible. Installation to replace an existing appliance is covered. Creating a new hook up for a new appliance that’s not replacing another would have to be covered by the provider.

The item I requested is no longer on sale or no longer available. Can I use the grant funds for the same type of item but a different brand? (3.8.23)

Yes. You can make those types of changes so long as the new item corresponds and is similarly priced to what was applied for. If the price change is significant, see the question below.

The item I requested is now more expensive or significantly less expensive, and I have already received the grant funds. (3.8.23)

If funds have been dispersed, through Submittable* you can receive a Change Request form that will allow you to request additional funds, or state how you will use unspent funds if under $1,000. Unspent funds over $1,000 must be returned to IFF.

* To receive a Change Request form, open the application for which you need to request the change request. Click “Send Message.” In the subject line put “Change Request Form Needed.” This will expedite your request and ensure the form is attached to the correct project.


The item I requested is now more expensive or significantly less expensive, but I have not yet received the grant funds. (3.8.23)

Once approved for grant funding, you will receive a Supplemental Information form that allows for minor adjustments in costs based on availability and other restrictions.

If the cost of items is higher than when I submitted my application and I have requested the maximum grant, can I pay the difference myself? (3.8.23)