INDIANAPOLIS— Child care in Indiana was top of mind at the statehouse Wednesday.
Nearly 20 organizations, businesses and agencies gave testimony about the need to fix what they call a “broken” and “outdated” system.
“The system is broken from every single angle,” Erin Emerson with the Perry County Development Corporation said. “It feels like a miracle quite often that our center is still open and operating according to state licensing guidelines.”
Several businesses told committee members about the struggles some of their employees face amid living in “childcare deserts.”
“Huntington County has four licensed childcare facilities, and the largest one has a waitlist of over 200 children,” Tricia Miller with Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems said.
“We have fewer than ten licensed childcare facilities per 100,000 residents. Only Louisiana was ranked lower,” Ashton Eller with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce said.
Several businesses also said lack of affordable childcare is turning potential hires away. One estimated Indiana will lose between $5-9 billion over the next ten years if nothing changes.
“If we can impact childcare by 10 percent, you can realize [a] 0.5-2.5% increase in your eligible workforce,” Dave Roberts with the Applied Research Institute said.
He said in Indiana that’s between roughly 20,000 to 90,000 workers.
Several state agencies presented potential solutions in the works. The FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning said it is working to ease the current licensing process and has increased income eligibility for CCDF and “On My Way Pre-K,” but some said that was only part of the puzzle.
“It will open up access to an additional 11,000 children…that’s awesome, but there’s no more money to serve them and there’s already children on the waitlist, and there are no more seats for them to actually go to,” Emerson said.
The Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee said a third party will assess existing regulations for childcare providers and make recommendations to overhaul the state’s current “Path to Quality” Program. The review process begins later this month, while the deadline to submit recommendations for the PTQ Program is in November.