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Indiana lawmakers advance bill to expand child care eligibility

Child care eligibility expansion advances

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Businesses and child care advocates alike on Wednesday told lawmakers child care access is a key economic development issue.

An Indiana Senate committee on Wednesday morning unanimously approved a measure intended to expand the state’s available child care workforce. The bill would make child care workers eligible for Child Care Development Fund vouchers, which help pay for the costs of child care, if they make up to 85% of the state’s median income, which works out to $59,412 a year for a family of three.

The bill also would lower from 21 to 18 the minimum age to become a child care worker, and allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work in child care settings under continuous supervision.

The measure also would set up a pilot program to explore child care micro-facilities, which would care for from three to 30 children in a nonresidential setting, such as at a business.

Child care service providers told lawmakers they have trouble attracting and retaining qualified workers in large part because they themselves cannot access child care. Early Learning Indiana’s Maureen Weber said her organization, which has 13 child care centers throughout the state, offers a child care benefit but smaller operations lack the scale to do that.

“The fundamental mechanics of math in the early care industry simply doesn’t work,” she said. “Parents can’t afford to pay what it costs to provide that care day in and day out. It is always a balancing act, and a measure like this, I think, would be very welcome and helpful to providers.”

The bill also got support from organizations representing manufacturers and chambers of commerce, which say child care availability is a key factor in their ability to attract employees of their own.

Since the bill involves a spending component, it has to go through the Senate Appropriations Committee before it goes to the chamber floor.