Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. September 9, 2023.
Editorial: The time is now for Indiana to fund child care as state infrastructure
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 included $23.97 billion in child care provider grants to defray business costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. That funding helped steady child care operations so they could continue providing services during a time of economic uncertainty.
With the last of that money expiring this month, an estimated 70,000 child care programs in the U.S. could close as a result, according to a study by the Century Foundation, one of the oldest policy research institutions in the country. The funding loss could cause 3.2 million children to lose care, the foundation reported, which would translate to $10.6 billion in lost economic activity.
Child care is a major economic issue for families with children and for care providers. The average cost for an infant in child care is about $12,000 annually at a child care center, and between $8,000 and $9,000 for a preschooler, said Allie Sutherland, the Northeast Indiana Regional Coalition coordinator and child development specialist for the Bridge of Grace Compassionate Ministries Center.
For employers, developers and business advocates, it’s an infrastructure issue that’s keeping hundreds of thousands of Americans from participating in the workforce or furthering their education. Concern has grown so great that expansion of prekindergarten education programs is a goal of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s “Indiana Prosperity 2035: A Vision for Economic Acceleration,” a long-term fiscal plan for the state.
“We are relying on parents to pay for the entire cost of child care, and parents just cannot afford it,” Sutherland told The Journal Gazette. “There’s a gap in the middle that we have to meet somehow, whether that be additional funding through the state for child care or raising child care subsidy limits.”
State lawmakers broadly expanded the Choice Scholarship Program in the most recent legislative session, making some 95,000 students eligible for school vouchers by 2025. A family of four making as much as $220,000 annually now qualifies for full Choice Scholarships.
For child care, a family of four making about $45,000 a year is eligible for On My Way Pre-K, a state program providing access to high-quality preschools to students.
“The main issue that we are seeing, as far as child care providers in Indiana and Allen County specifically, is just the need for funding to help support programs,” Deondra Steward, owner/operator of Fort Wayne’s Unique Cherubs Family Childcare, told The Journal Gazette. “The state has put more funding and time into getting those resources for family providers, but it’s hard to do training if it’s in the middle of the day or outside of the city.”
Steward testified before the legislature’s Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services last month. She told committee members home child care programs such as hers require funding for business training, grant writing and help with navigating the process of being a child care provider.
According to the federal Administration for Children & Families, 3,270 Hoosier child care programs received stabilization support through ARPA, impacting up to 157,100 children. On average, child care centers received $315,900 and providers in family homes collected $47,500.
Steward said those state grants were a lifeline for her business.
“The only reason why I’m still open is because of the stabilization grant that the state was able to provide for many, many programs,” she told the study committee Aug. 9. “We are losing our family child care providers because the sustainability is just not there.”
The next steps in Indiana’s prekindergarten program evolution must be incentives for public and private investments to expand quality preschool programs in less-populated counties. They also should include financial aid for early childhood educators through scholarships and small-business grants to increase the number of instructors, who in Indiana were paid an average of $12.84 per hour according to a 2020 report by the University of California-Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.
Roads, bridges, schools and utilities are the physical and organizational structures needed for society’s operation. Indiana can only succeed if all Hoosiers have access to taxpayer-supported infrastructure, which must include quality child care. Working parents, early childhood educators, employers and business advocates are demanding it.
Indiana’s children are frequently touted as our state’s greatest resource. It’s time we invested in that resource, especially at the earliest ages where the effect on childhood development and educational preparation can be most profound. It’s a matter of priorities.
Anderson Herald Bulletin. September 7, 2023.
Editorial: Fed program boosts Hoosier ecological efforts
Indiana is home to peaceful woodlands, fertile farm fields, rushing rivers, pristine lakes and dozens of other ecological assets that support a rich diversity of plant and animal life.
Our future lies, in large part, in our ability to preserve these resources. Hoosiers can enjoy and benefit from the natural world around us without degrading it, provided that we have a clear and comprehensive understanding of our natural environment and how human activity impacts it.
Indiana’s long-awaited participation in a federal program can help us improve that understanding.
The state recently received funding for the The Cooperative Research Units (CRU) Program, which will triple the number of government wildlife scientists studying our most important ecological issues.
The research program, as reported last month in an article by CNHI State Reporter Carson Gerber, is administered through the U.S. Geological Survey and will be based in the Purdue University forestry and natural resources department. Purdue will provide offices and administrative support, as well as scientific access to hundreds of acres of forest owned by the university.
The CRU will help train graduate students to prepare for careers and research designed to support and protect the state’s natural resources.
Increasing the number of state wildlife researchers from 10 to 30 will enable state officials to better understand and manage issues such as invasive species, animal diseases and fish populations.
The CRU program was launched way back in 1935, but while most other states entered the program over the years, funding has been limited.
However, since 2020, an additional $6 million in federal money has been approved for the program, increasing the total to $26 million and bringing Indiana and Michigan into the fold in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Forty-one states now participate in the program.
At an announcement of Indiana’s CRU funding in August, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said that the program would “take stewardship and conservation to the next level” in the state.
That’s good news for all Hoosiers. In a sense, those peaceful woodlands, fertile farm fields, rushing rivers and pristine lakes, belong to all of us.
Terre Haute Tribune-Star. September 8, 2023.
Editorial: Incentives for EV industry give state a positive charge
ENTEK became the latest company to take advantage of federal and state government incentives in support of the burgeoning electric vehicle industry in Indiana when it announced in March that it would build a $1.5 billion lithium separator facility south of Terre Haute in Vigo County.
On Wednesday, ENTEK broke ground on the plant, marking the start of construction on a high-tech facility that the company says is its largest global investment so far. The company projects it will provide 650 “family wage” jobs at the plant by the end of 2027.
ENTEK was among the first companies selected by the federal government to receive incentive funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act. That funding led the company to develop its plan to build a lithium separator facility, and Indiana’s pledge to ENTEK of $13.7 million in incentives helped it win that project for the state.
To its credit, Indiana has stepped up to become a player in the rapidly growing EV industry, with its efforts aimed so far at development of battery manufacturing and related components. Six projects — including the ENTEK facility — have been selected by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to receive a total of $332.4 million in performance-based tax incentives, grants and payments.
The biggest incentive package — $165.5 million in tax credits and grants and another $278 million in loans — came last year when the state announced it had landed its first EV battery plant in Kokomo. The StarPlus Energy Facility was awarded the largest single incentive package in state history and will employ 1,400 workers.
These hugely expensive incentive packages from federal, state and local governments come with their share of resistance and controversy. A question hangs heavy over these and other development projects: Is the public investment worth it?
When it comes to Indiana’s commitment to support the movement toward cleaner energy, it most certainly is.
Mitigating the effects of climate change is the primary purpose behind the rapid development of electric vehicles. The federal government is leading the charge, and states are responding with incentives of their own. Indiana has been home to a number of auto manufacturers in the past, so its efforts to tap into EV development may be more about saving Hoosier jobs related to the auto industry than saving the planet. But the result addresses both ends.
Other states are offering similar incentives to lure battery and other component plants related to EVs, so Indiana will have to remain competitive in what it offers to stay in the game. So far, it’s doing well enticing companies designed to feed the EV supply chain. For the sake of the Hoosier economy, that commitment should continue.