(Tell City, Indiana) – Earlier this week, Perry County Development Corporation President & CEO, Erin Emerson, testified before Hoosier lawmakers of the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health, & Human Services at the Indiana Statehouse. The Committee, which is chaired by Senator Ed Charbonneau, has been tasked with studying Indiana’s childcare system ahead of the 2024 legislative session.

Emerson, who has spent the last several years advocating that childcare is key to economic development and talent attraction, says she has experienced the inadequacies of Indiana’s childcare system from all angles. In addition to leading the county’s development corporation, Emerson serves as the volunteer board president for Perry County’s only licensed childcare center, Perry Preschool & Child Care. She is also the mother of two young children and has struggled with accessing childcare herself.

“The system is broken from every single angle. It does not work for providers. It does not work for parents, and clearly, employers are struggling to find workforce,” Emerson said. “As a state, we are focused on attracting talent and growing our population, which is exciting but also painfully ironic considering the number of parents who currently live here who desperately want to work but who do not have access to the childcare that would allow them to do that.”

According to the Center for American Progress, 55% of people in Indiana live in a childcare desert. Emerson says if the state is serious about addressing the issue, it will require investments that build the supply of care, decrease the costs to families, and incentivize professionals to join the early childhood education workforce.

In addition to Emerson, nearly 20 other Hoosiers testified including state agencies, employers, and providers. The hearing received an abundance of media coverage including an article in the Indiana Capital Chronicle and a feature on WishTV.com. Testimony lasted for over four hours, giving Committee members an abundance of information to review prior to its next meeting, which is scheduled for late September. “We have a long way to go to get to where we need to be,” said Emerson, “But I am encouraged by the level of attention this critical issue is finally getting.”