Indiana hopes to help employers add child care options for Hoosier families. (Kohei Hara/Getty Images)
Applications for a new employer-sponsored child care fund are open, the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced Monday.
“Employers know first-hand the critical needs of their employees, and are best positioned to partner in their communities to create child care solutions that will help build and retain their workforce,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a news release. “This targeted grant program will boost Indiana’s economy and most importantly empower the state’s youngest learners with the tools they need to be successful in the years to come.”
About 55% of Hoosiers live in a child care desert, according to the Center for American Progress. The left-leaning think tank defines a desert as any census tract with more than 50 children under age 5 that has either no child care providers or very few: three times fewer licensed slots than kids.
The $25 million program offers employers seed funding for child care initiatives using some of the state’s remaining pandemic-era federal relief funds.
Employers can use funds to sponsor flexible spending accounts called dependent care assistance plans, provide on- or near-site child care, partner with local child care programs for priority access or reserved seats, provide child care tuition benefits and more, according, to a list of eligible expenses.
To be eligible, employers must be located in Indiana and be a business or corporation, a group of local employers or a community-based nonprofit organization applying on behalf of a group of local employers. In each scenario, the entities must employ a staff of 20 or more.
Employers must also be willing to match 10% of the total amount they request, and be able to take action within the first year of the program.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is a partner in the program; the news release noted that the Indiana Manufacturer’s Association supports the initiative.
“Families will benefit from more convenient child care options in their communities, giving children the opportunity to learn, grow and develop alongside their peers. This grant will give parents more opportunities to learn, grow and develop in their careers as well,” said Courtney Penn, director of FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning.
Applications are open until November 22 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.
The program comes as state lawmakers increasingly discuss Indiana’s child care crisis and possible solutions. A health-focused interim committee made multiple policy recommendations in a report released last week.
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