Advocates for low-income working families in need of affordable daycare are sounding the alarm over the potential economic impacts of the Rauner administration's recent cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's CCAP restrictions, which will shut out an estimated 90 percent of new applicants from the program, "will harm the Illinois economy and cost taxpayers more in the long run," SEIU* Healthcare Illinois Vice President James Muhammad said on a Monday morning conference call.
He was joined on the call by small business advocates from the Main Street Alliance and Small Business Advocacy Council as well as a policy expert from Innovation Illinois, a Chicago-based progressive think tank.
Muhammad said SEIU Healthcare Illinois is renewing its efforts to pass state legislation that would undo Rauner's CCAP changes, after a similar bill fell one vote shy of advancing in the House earlier this month. The Senate already passed the legislation, SB 570, in August.
"We will be targeting certain representatives on the Republican side and Democratic side who recognize the importance of protecting the vulnerable populations in our state when they voted to overrule rule changes to (the Illinois) Home Care Program for low-income seniors and people with disabilities," Muhammad said of the campaign to pass SB 570.
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, monthly parent co-pays increased and the eligibility parameters narrowed. Some Illinois child care providers have had to close their doors or reduce staff because of the new program restrictions, said Faith Arnold, a child care provider in Bellwood and an SEIU Healthcare Illinois executive board member.
The administration argues that the emergency rules impacting CCAP are necessary in order to manage the state's finances without a budget.
But Elizabeth Austin with Innovation Illinois contends that the new requirements are not in the best economic interest of the state.
"We are not just hitting the people who are the recipients of this program, we are also causing a devastating economic hit in communities that really need these dollars," she said.
Austin pointed out that the federal government provides the state with 73 cents for every dollar spent on CCAP.
Because every 73 cents spent on CCAP comes from federal funds, "the amount that we save in our state budget [from CCAP cuts] is so small compared with the economic impacts that are felt statewide," she added.
Austin further noted that some 77,000 jobs are directly created through CCAP.
And for "every 100 new jobs created in child care, we get another 56 created in other sectors," she stressed.
David Borris, who serves on the national executive committee of the Main Street Alliance small business network, spoke to the importance of child care assistance for low-income workers.
"We're talking about a little bit of help to get [low-income working families] on the first rung of the economic ladder," he said.
Elliot Richardson, CEO of the Small Business Advocacy Council, urged lawmakers and the governor to break the budget stalemate.
"It is time to stop the games, to pass legislation, to pass the budget so that things like necessary child care can be provided for hard-working folks in Illinois," he stressed.
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.