Inclusive, Thriving Workforce: Affordable, Accessible Childcare

( INDIANAPOLIS)-In order to work, parents and guardians must have affordable, accessible childcare. Unfortunately, cost and availability are considerable barriers for far too many families in Indiana. This disproportionately pushes women who might otherwise work out of jobs and career paths. At the same time, our lack of public investment in childcare means that childcare workers and preschool teachers – also disproportionately women – often experience financial hardship. The third policy brief in the Institute’s ‘inclusive, thriving’ workforce series dives into this topic.

“Using the U.S. Health and Human Services benchmark that childcare should cost no more than 7% of a family’s income, quality childcare in Indiana is not ‘affordable’ to families unless they earn over $100,000 per year,” said Jessica Fraser, Director, Indiana Institute for Working Families. “By failing to invest in this critical infrastructure and thereby make it more affordable and accessible, policymakers have ensured that many parents are pushed out of the workplace. Disproportionately, this affects women and individuals in jobs with unpredictable scheduling or second and third shifts. Meanwhile, the lack of public investment also means that the typical childcare worker earns just $9.75 per hour and frequently faces financial hardship herself.”

Existing programs, such as the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), the federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, and employer-based supports, are positive but inadequate steps that not only fail to reach many of the families who need them, but also sometimes fail to provide sufficient support to those they do reach. For example, only 9% of workers in the East North Central Midwest receive any type of employer-based childcare support, and nearly half of Hoosier families who receive a voucher through the CCDF program pay overages averaging 3.4% of their income, while 3,570 children who qualify for and whose families have applied to receive CCDF voucher support are on the waiting list.  

Families, communities, and employers would all benefit from a more robust, affordable early childcare system. Therefore, all should contribute. The brief recommends larger investments in CCDF and in direct relief for working families through the tax code, as well as better use of existing funding streams, a paid family leave program, and fair scheduling laws, to support this aim.   

The next brief in the series will focus on fair scheduling, and will be released October 24th.