Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration on Monday reversed some of its cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income working families afford day care.
The administration's decision to change the program's eligiblity requirements came "as a result of bipartisan discussions with legislators" and one day before state lawmakers could take up legislation, SB 570, seeking to undo the CCAP cuts.
On July 1, when the state entered the new fiscal year without a budget, the administration implemented stricter CCAP eligibility parameters and increased parent co-pays.
As part of the administration's cuts, a working family could have a monthly income only up to 50 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for CCAP. Previously, new applicants had been eligible for CCAP if they earned up to 185 percent of the poverty level.
Now, the administration says it is lifting the income eligibility threshold to 162 percent of the federal poverty level. The administration also said it is keeping current parent co-pays in place, adding that "other eligibility and restrictions will also be lifted pending further review and legislative consultation."
Additionally, the governor's office announced plans to form "a bipartisan, bicameral task force aimed at ensuring" CCAP's "long-term stability."
"The governor's office thanks the serious, good-faith negotiations by members of the legislature who made today's announcement a reality," reads a statement from Lance Trover, a spokesman for the governor. "This bipartisan agreement will allow us to avoid the unintended consequences and costs that SB 570 would have brought. By working together, we will be able to bring financial stability to an important program valued by members of both parties."
A coalition of child advocacy groups issued this statement upon news of the administration's changes to the CCAP eligibility rules:
We applaud Governor Rauner's decision today to suspend damaging emergency rule changes made to the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) on July 1, 2015. We also applaud our legislative champions in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly who refused to let children and families be anything but the highest priority in our state. Of course, we would also like to acknowledge the thousands of families and advocates statewide who continue to make sure the Governor and the General Assembly know just how important this issue is.
Key changes announced by the Governor today include:
* Increasing eligibility to 162 percent of Federal Poverty Level from 50 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
* Suspending child support requirements instituted on July 1, 2015.
* Suspending restrictive background checks for relative caregivers.
While this agreement is a good start, we recognize that there is significant work to be done in order to end the chaos that has been created in lieu of a state budget. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly on a state budget solution that includes sufficient revenue to fully fund all programs that low-income, hard-working families rely on.
Fight Crime: Invest In Kids Illinois
Illinois Action for Children
Latino Policy Forum
Ounce of Prevention Fund
Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Voices for Illinois Children
In August, the Senate passed SB 570, which would undo the CCAP cuts. But the legislation fell one vote shy of advancing in the House in September.
Despite the administration's new CCAP eligibility rules, state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) said in a statement that she still plans to "run SB 570 tomorrow afternoon in the House of Representatives."
"This legislation brings long-term stability back to the Child Care Assistance Program," the state representative said. "My primary focus and concern is that of children, families and childcare centers that need access to this vital work program now. We must pass SB 570 to statutorily make certain that our children are never put in this kind of limbo ever again."
SEIU* Healthcare Illinois President Keith Kelleher also called for the passage of SB 570 in a statement responding to the governor's CCAP changes:
Now, at the 11th hour and ONLY AFTER bipartisan public outcry across Illinois over the pain and suffering caused by cuts that have kicked 70,000 kids off child care, Bruce Rauner comes to the table. His arbitrary actions, which should never have happened in the first place, show just why, deal or no deal, we still need Senate Bill 570 to pass tomorrow, to remove the ability for a governor, Democrat or Republican, to use unchecked executive power to destroy by rule those programs created by statute.
Since the governor apparently now realizes the needless pain caused by his actions, we call on him to expedite the rules returning children to the program instead of figuring out ways to use them as political pawns.
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.