Progress Illinois recaps Wednesday's state hearing in Chicago on the Rauner administration's changes to the Child Care Assistance Program, which have thus far resulted in nearly 5,000 children being denied access to state-subsidized daycare.
Nearly 5,000 Illinois children have been denied access to state-subsidized daycare and at least 100 child care providers in Cook County alone have closed their doors since the Rauner administration drastically reduced eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) on July 1.
Illinois Action for Children President and CEO Maria Whelan provided those numbers Wednesday afternoon as she testified at an Illinois Department of Human Services hearing in Chicago on the CCAP changes.
"We ask parents to take care of their children, we expect parents to take care of their children. The parents we have just heard from are doing just that," Whelan told the single state official who took testimony at the hearing. "I think it's an abomination for us to pull this absolutely critical, central safety net from under their feet."
Alejandra Corral, an Aurora resident and single mother of two, was among dozens of parents and providers who spoke at the hearing.
Corral was deemed ineligible for CCAP in mid-July because her monthly income of about $2,000 was too high. She would have qualified if her monthly income was $838 or less.
Corral, 23, currently pays $100 per month for child care, but that's only because she works for an Aurora daycare that is giving her a temporary discount.
"If they weren't doing this, I would have to pay over $2,100 for daycare. I don't even make enough," she stressed. "All of us here today are not asking for handouts, we're asking for assistance. We want to be able to work. If this somehow doesn't get fixed, I won't be able to afford daycare for my kids, and I don't want to be on any more public aid than" CCAP.
As part of the administration's CCAP changes, which were implemented through the use of emergency rulemaking and took effect on July 1 when the state entered the new fiscal year without a budget, eligibility parameters narrowed significantly and monthly parent co-pays increased.
According to DHS, a new CCAP applicant has to be one of the following to be eligible for the program: a Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipient; a teen parent enrolled full-time in elementary,high school or GED classes; from a family with a special needs child; or a working family with a monthly income up to 50 percent of the federal poverty level.
New applicants had previously been eligible for CCAP if they earned up to 185 percent of the poverty level.
Now, new applicants in a two-person family can earn only up to $664 a month to qualify. The maximum monthly income amount was previously $2,456 for a family of two, which is what someone working about 40 hours a week at $14 an hour earns. Child care advocates say the new CCAP requirements will shut out an estimated 90 percent of new applicants from the program.
The administration, which said the emergency rules impacting CCAP were necessary in order to manage the state's finances without a budget, is seeking to make the eligibility changes permanent.
Elgin resident Lluvia Perez, 28, a single mother of four whose CCAP application was denied, urged the administration to reconsider that move.
"If I don't get approved, I won't be able to work. I cannot pay all of this. If I don't work, I'm homeless. I won't be able to pay [for] my medication," said Perez, who has epilepsy. "I'm really, really concerned about this."
Perez's income level disqualifies her from CCAP.
"The thing is, I don't make much. I make $360 a week," Perez, a house cleaner, told Progress Illinois before the hearing. "If I lose a couple days of work, I'm a paycheck away from being homeless."
Providers also pleaded for the state to reverse the CCAP changes.
Grace Araya, director of Eyes on the Future Child Development Center in Rogers Park, said her daycare mostly serves low-income families who receive CCAP.
Since July 1, the center has had to turn away 41 families because they do not qualify for CCAP. The daycare lost another 10 families because they could no longer afford their CCAP co-pays.
"It's very difficult to give families the news that they do not qualify, even though they are low-income," she said. "We've gotten questions like, 'How can anyone live off that?' and 'What does the state want from us for trying to work?'"
Eyes on the Future has 51 open daycare slots, which represents a fifth of the provider's capacity and a monthly revenue loss of $35,000, Araya said. She attributed those vacancies to the new CCAP rules.
"These last few months have been financially difficult, and if the changes to CCAP remain permanent, I do not believe we will continue to operate," she stressed.
Also represented at today's hearing was the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, which provides child care and Head Start services at seven Cook County centers.
"We are being significantly impacted," Laura Rios, vice president of child, youth and family services at the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, told Progress Illinois before the hearing. "As of today, we've turned away 125 children, who, based upon the information the parents presented to us, we believed would have been eligible for child care [before the changes went into effect]."
Rios said the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago is being hit hard by the overall budget impasse as well. The organization put on hold filling 10 vacancies and notified nine staffers Tuesday that they will be laid off in 30 days, she said.
"We are a safe haven for our families, and because we are Catholic Charities, we wrap these families with multiple services," she said. "Our whole system and our ability to survive and continue is really at risk right now. Our own survival is being threatened."
The CCAP hearing was held during the fourth month of the state budget impasse, which some state legislators are predicting could continue into next year. Democratic leaders and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner remain at odds over a spending plan for the 2016 fiscal year.
Rauner -- who has been using the budget process in an attempt to win his controversial pro-business, anti-union agenda items -- spoke about the stalemate Wednesday. He reiterated his support for a budget agreement that includes limits on collective bargaining in the public sector.
"It's not about Republicans versus Democrats. It's about good government. It's about making sure tax dollars go to education, economic growth, tourism marketing and services for the most vulnerable -- not to expensive government bureaucracy," the governor said.
"It's time we in Illinois get serious about collective bargaining reform and unfunded mandate relief in government. It's a critical bipartisan issue where we can find common ground. Getting rid of unfunded mandates and giving decision-making authority on bargaining, bidding and contracting back to local communities," Rauner added.
In response to Rauner's comments, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan issued a statement, which read in part:
As I have stated since January, the number one issue facing the state is the budget deficit. The governor, however, has refused to focus on solving our budget deficit, instead focusing on other issues. That decision has led to dangerous consequences by forcing the defunding of breast and cervical cancer screenings, child care assistance for struggling families, meals for homebound elderly residents and services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
I've stated all year that I will work with the governor cooperatively and professionally, but we will not devastate Illinois' middle class and struggling families by furthering an agenda aimed at driving down their wages and their standard of living.
James Muhammad, Vice-President of SEIU* Healthcare Illinois, provided these remarks following Rauner's speech today:
After nearly five months of refusing to sit down and negotiate with legislators, Gov. Bruce Rauner continues to hold millions of the most vulnerable Illinoisans hostage hoping legislators will enact his extreme political agenda.
The truth is that Rauner has no interest in negotiating. He simply wants to deflect the daily headlines showing the massive human suffering his cuts are causing.
It's long past time for Gov. Rauner to heed the advice of his fellow Republican Gov. Jim Edgar to drop his non-budgetary sideshows like political maps and union-busting and DO HIS JOB -- which is to produce a budget that is fair and equitable to all Illinoisans.
*The SEIU Illinois Council Sponsors this website.