Access to affordable child care is a national issue, and the state of Indiana is at the forefront of that debate. According to the Child Care Aware of America 2016 Report and the state-specific appendices, the average annual cost of full-time, center-based child care in Indiana can be as high as $8,929 per year, which can amount to 40.1% of a single-parent’s median income ($22,259) and 11.5% of a married-couple family’s median income ($77,792). Senate Democrats are concerned with the ballooning costs of child care, which is why a number of proposals have been filed as a part of the caucus’ priorities for this session. Senator Mark Stoops (D- Bloomington) has championed a number of bills in an attempt to lift some of the burden on working Hoosier families.
Sen. Stoops has authored Senate Bill (SB) 364, the goal of which is to provide some economic relief to working Hoosier families for the costs of child care. Based on a family’s income, the proposal would provide a refundable child care tax credit of up to $500 if the adjusted gross income for a family is less than $37,000. When considering the average per capita income in Indiana is $41,940 (36th lowest in the nation), this bill would provide a modest return to low/middle income Hoosier parents due to the growing costs of child care here in the state. The proposal was considered by the Senate Tax and Fiscal committee on Tuesday – where testimony was heard from the Indiana Institute for Working Families and Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children – but the proposal was held and did not receive a committee vote.
SB 369 is another bill authored by Senator Stoops aimed at helping families afford quality child care. The primary goal of SB 369 is to expand the income eligibility requirements for the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) child care voucher program. There have been instances in the past where Hoosier families that participated in the CCDF child care voucher program received a pay raise at work or were able to work more hours, which increased their income and made them ineligible for the child care voucher, further pushing them away from economic self-sufficiency. This is commonly known as the Cliff Effect. By expanding this eligibility, hundreds of families and some of the 9,000 children currently on the wait list for CCDF would benefit from the expansion. There was a bill that originated in the Indiana House of Representatives in 2015 (HB 1616) that gained some traction and passed unanimously in the House, but failed to receive a hearing in the Senate Appropriations committee.
While these bills do not completely address the cost burdens of child care, they are an attempt to start the conversation of affordable child care in Indiana, and would provide additional state resources to low-income, working Hoosiers. In the past, Senate Democrats have additionally pointed to the importance of expanding early childhood education programs as a means to address the costs of child care, and will continue to do so during the 2017 legislative session. Senate Democrats believe that affordable, quality child care and early childhood education are the foundation of the social and educational development of children in the state, and will continue to work towards making both more accessible to Hoosier families this session.