Chicago parents and child care providers pledged Thursday to ramp up pressure on Gov. Bruce Rauner over his cuts to a program that helps low-income working families afford daycare.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9) and state Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) joined child care workers and parents in denouncing Rauner's emergency changes to the Child Care Assistance Program during a town hall meeting hosted by SEIU* Healthcare Illinois at the Edgewater library.
"This is an attack on families," Harris said of the child care cuts. "It's an attack on working people. It's an attack on kids, and it's just wrong."
Schakowsky called Rauner's actions "mean-spirited."
"This is not an option to cut child care, freeze the admission and reduce eligibility," she stressed.
The town hall meeting came two days after a failed legislative attempt by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to block the governor's new CCAP mandates, which were implemented through the administration's use of emergency rulemaking. As part of the CCAP changes, which took effect on July 1 when the state entered the new fiscal year without a budget, monthly parent co-pays increased and eligibility requirements got stricter -- to the point where 90 percent of new applicants will be deemed ineligible.
The administration argues that the emergency rules impacting CCAP are necessary in order to manage the state's finances without a budget.
The CCAP changes will remain in effect, regardless if there's a state budget, for at least 150 days unless they are reversed through legislative action. Harris, however, said the emergency rules could last longer than that. If lawmakers do not block the changes, there is "nothing that says (Rauner) can't start all over again on day 151," the state representative said.
Democrat-backed legislation seeking to restore CCAP's original eligibility requirements passed the Senate last week and is under consideration in the House.
Harris urged those at the town hall to rally support for that measure.
"We gotta stop him, and we gotta stop him for good," he said of Rauner. "We can't keep playing games with people's lives."
Tonja Brown, with West Austin Development Centers, a daycare and preschool on Chicago's West Side, called on more parents to get involved with the fight against child care cuts.
"Until (the governor) sees us in mass numbers making a big stink about this, it will continue to go on (this) way," she said. "Everybody has to get involved. We can't do it by ourselves."
Meanwhile, those at the meeting also highlighted their support for universal child care and a $15 minimum wage for child care workers. Schakowsky and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced a federal resolution last month in support of those policies.
"We have to demand an adequate living wage for our child care workers," Schakowsky said.
Celeste Cunine, a child care provider and SEIU Healthcare Illinois member, told the crowd that she loves her job, but it is hard to make ends meet because of her low wages.
"Sometimes (child care providers) work 12 hours a day for little pay," she said. "We even have to come out of our own pockets to provide crayons, paper, things like that, which we shouldn't have to when we already getting low pay. But I do it because I love the children."
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.