INDIANAPOLIS — State Lawmakers are less than two months away from the start of the legislative session.
Monday, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce laid out their priorities. While the list is long, one of their key goals is to increase access to childcare. The Chamber says a lack of affordable childcare is one of the outside factors most negatively impacting attracting and retaining workers.
“We made a start at addressing this issue last session, but everyone realizes more needs to be done, Jason Bearce, Indiana Chamber the vice president of education and workforce development said. “The lack of affordable, high-quality childcare across Indiana is impacting Hoosier families and businesses all over the state. It’s certainly one of the outside factors most negatively impacting attracting and retaining workers.”
Natalie Marcum has been looking for childcare for her 5-year-old daughter Remi for months. The prices for a childcare facility she is comfortable with are out of her price range.
"1,200 dollars a month is insane that’s more then my rent,” Natalie Marcum said.
Another Indy mom agrees. "I feel like I make a decent amount of money for what I do.. but I didn't think it was going to be that big of a financial burden when it came down to it. I was thinking maybe like 150 dollars a week and that was really like my max."
Last legislative session, lawmakers increased the amount of money a family can make to qualify for the Child Care and Development Fund which helps pay for childcare. According to the state's website the change should be helping 11,000 more kids and families access childcare assistance.
But lawmakers admit more needs to be done. Minority leader Greg Taylor says having children start school earlier could be a solution.
"Change the law and compelled children to go to school at 5 years of age,” Democratic Minority Leader Senator Greg Taylor said. “Don't forget we still have it on the books that in the state of Indiana you are not compelled to send your child to school until they are seven, not five, seven.”
Republicans seemed hesitant about that idea due to the potential impacts on the state’s budget.
"We just we want to make sure we work on this space in particular where you start adding saying kids start at 5 years old,” President Pro Tem of the Senate Republican Rodric Bray said. That would be an immense amount of money that the state would be spending. We just want to make sure that we are spending it thoughtfully."
There have also been efforts in the past by Democrats to double the child tax care credit.
"We've been asking to double the childcare tax credit for 3-4 years,” Senator Taylor said. "Double it. "
But Republic House Speaker of the Indiana House Todd Huston, has other aspects that he feels are adding to the problem.
"Now you try to open up a childcare practice good lord welcome to bureaucracy,” Speaker Todd Huston (R) Fishers said.
As for moms like Marcum, she feels if lawmakers lifted income requirements for certain programs, most families would be able to better afford childcare they are comfortable with.
"I feel like early learning should just be accessible to everybody. There shouldn't be a price point or a dollar amount on it,” Marcum said.
Democrats say that making childcare more accessible and affordable is one of their top priorities in the upcoming legislative session too. The Chamber would also like to see the state give additional support to the childcare workforce, many of whom qualify for public assistance.
The legislative session is scheduled to start on January 9th.
The list of Indiana Chamber top legislative priorities and objectives for the upcoming session are as follows:
- Support tort reform to improve legal climate
- Support local recognition of state XBE certification for improved efficiency
- Support driving privilege cards for undocumented residents
- Support additional efforts to enhance early childcare access and quality
- Support further strengthening career-connected learning expectations and opportunities for Indiana students, building on last year’s House Enrolled Act 1002
- Support revised Indiana Code definition of PFAS/PFOA, a type of chemical used in various industries
- Support increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to medical providers
- Support cigarette tax increase of $2 per pack
- Support expanding the scope-of-practice for low-level providers that would increase access to care
- Support banning union-only project labor agreements
- Support increasing the threshold for business personal property exemption
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