The Indiana Chamber wants legislators to strengthen child care as a way to turn around a months-long labor shortage.
Federal pandemic relief included temporary assistance to families to help them pay for child care. Chamber president Kevin Brinegar says he’d like to see Indiana dip into reserves to do something similar to get parents back into the workforce.
There’s bipartisan agreement that child care is one of the contributors to the worker shortage. Anderson Representative Terri Austin (D) says women in particular have been slow to reenter the workforce as a result. But Austin and House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) say even if parents can afford child care, it may be hard to find an open slot. Austin says one in five Indiana daycares closed at the start of the pandemic and never reopened. Huston says even when the federal money was flowing, it didn’t relieve the bottleneck.
Brinegar argues it’s a supply and demand issue: if more parents are looking for child care, more centers will open to meet demand.
Austin says the squeeze is particularly apparent at small and medium-sized businesses. She says corporate giants like Eli Lilly — and state government itself — often operate their own child-care facilities. She suggests legislators could make it easier for smaller companies to pool their resources to follow suit.