Gov. Pat Quinn successfully worked with state lawmakers to route emergency funding toward child-care providers for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30. But the governor secured the votes needed by extending the wait period for low-income parents to get cash payments from the state.
Also, Quinn’s proposed budget for next fiscal year, which the state legislature is supposed to pass a version of by next week, would make almost $85 million in permanent cuts to child-care providers. This is much to the chagrin of child-care providers who just got done lobbying for the emergency funding.
Under the Quinn budget, which the Illinois Senate is debating this week, the child-care savings are largely realized by raising the bar for which families are eligible from those 185 percent above the federal poverty level, or about $42,000 in yearly earnings for a family of four, to families 150 percent above the federal poverty level, or $34,000 in yearly earnings for a family of four.
“There is a wide range of families who are still struggling, but according to the state they’re not poor enough,” said Xavier Salvado, director of youth services at Gads Hill, a group that provides child-care on Chicago’s South Side.
Salvado joined a rally in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood today put on by child-care providers. Flanked by children chanting, “What do we want? Child-care! When do we need it? Now!” the providers called on parents to phone Quinn's office with their concerns – and requested that Quinn meet with providers.
“We urge Gov. Quinn to come here to our communities and meet Pilsen families,” said Rebecca Estrada, executive director of El Hogar Del Nino, a Pilsen community group. “If the governor gets out of his office and comes here, he might better understand that cutting child care funding is a bad idea.”
With Springfield scheduled to pass a state budget plus major cuts in Medicaid and pensions by next Thursday, Quinn’s chances of a Pilsen appearance look slim. However, the governor did lecture Oak Park school children Tuesday about the virtues of fiscal austerity.
Child-care advocates are pivoting to the proposed next fiscal year budget just six days after Quinn signed a bill that reinstates $73 million for child-care reimbursements for the 40,000 providers across the state that serve a total of 85,000 families.
The emergency measure followed the Illinois Department of Human Services informing providers that the state was out of child care money – the $73 million was taken from unspent money elsewhere in the budget.
But in order for the legislation to clear the General Assembly by a large bipartisan margin, Quinn agreed to a separate bill that extends the wait period for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF applicants.
Instead of waiting 30 days after their application, the low-income parents who get TANF would have to wait 45 days. Also, the application processing was extended 30 days.
These are disquieting changes, advocates contend, because they undo part of a 2010 law that made it easier for low-income parents to qualify for TANF – a federal/state program that stems from national welfare reform. As Progress Illinois reported, Illinois has a history of denying assistance for TANF applicants.
“This will indeed impose a significant hardship on poor families,” argues Dan Lesser, director of economic justice at the Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago. Lesser says the new bill will impact thousands of new applicants, noting that they are 45,000 current state TANF cases and a high turnover in caseload.