Recent changes to an Illinois child care program are negatively impacting families and providers, state lawmakers and advocates said Tuesday.
State Reps. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) and Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) joined child care providers and advocates during a gathering at the Thompson Center, where they called on the Illinois Department of Human Services to restore original eligibility requirements for the state's Child Care Assistance Program. CCAP helps low-income working families afford day care.
"It's unacceptable that recent changes to IDHS requirements for childcare have literally left some of our children out in the dark," Ford said in a statement. "Child care isn't where our state needs to try to save money. It isn't a question. We need to restore the eligibility requirements to their previous level."
The Rauner administration made deep cuts to CCAP when the state entered the new fiscal year in July without a budget, but later reversed some of them after facing public backlash.
As part of the administration's initial cuts, a working family could have a monthly income of up to 50 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for CCAP. Previously, new applicants were eligible if they earned up to 185 percent of the poverty level. Parent co-pays also increased with the administration's new CCAP requirements.
In November, the administration lifted the income eligibility threshold to 162 percent of the federal poverty level, but it kept the higher parent co-pays in place.
With the program changes in effect, CCAP enrollment decreased by 48,000 from July through December of last year, compared to the same time period in 2014, according to reporting from The State Journal-Register.
Child Care Advocates United, a coalition of Illinois child care providers, was among the groups speaking out today. The coalition called for restoration of CCAP's original provisions and a solution to the state's long-running budget impasse.
"In November of 2015, child care was supposedly 'saved.' That could not be further from the truth," Child Care Advocates United said in a statement. "In addition to decimating parents' access to child care by altering eligibility levels, now providers are suffering a slow death because of extremely delayed payments as a result of slow paperwork processing."
"More than 4,000 children of college students have been denied child care, over 10,000 children of families at 185 percent of the federal poverty level have been denied child care, and some parent cases have been held in paperwork limbo for as long at 90 days," the group added. "The number of children in child care is down 40,000 children compared to last year at this time. Parents and child care providers were promised by Governor Rauner that eligibility guidelines would be restored to 185 percent of the federal poverty levels upon passage of a state budget, but there is no end to the budget impasse in sight. What are working parents and college students to do? How long will innocent children and working families remain victims of this political tug of war?"