Due to devastating changes made by Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration, Illinois has the lowest income-eligibility in the entire nation for child care assistance. In fact, the other 49 states all have eligibility guidelines set at 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) or greater – Illinois’ eligibility is set at 50 just percent of FPL.
This is just one of the findings in the National Women’s Law Center’s (NWLC) new “Building Blocks: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2015” report (see attached). This report, when looked at in concert with Illinois Action for Children’s recently-released Policy Brief “Survey Confirms Devastating Impact of Child Care Changes on Children and Working Families”, paints a bleak picture of the access to child care that families have in Illinois.
As the NWLC report states, “A family with an income above 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($20,090 a year for a family of three in 2015) could qualify for child care assistance in all states in [February] 2015.”
That changed in July 2015, however, when Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration unilaterally made sweeping changes to the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) that now see new applicants making more than just $10,045 a year (for a family of three) being denied for child care. Put more plainly, 90 percent of new applicants who were eligible prior to the rule changes are now being denied.
What does this mean? According to the survey results in Illinois Action for Children’s Policy Brief:
· The number of child care assistance applications submitted in August 2015 is down almost 50 percent from August 2014. This suggests that many parents, knowing they will be denied, are deciding to not even apply.
· The CCAP caseload decreased by 9 percent, from 154,050 to 140,812, after just one month of data collected under the new rules.
· Since July 1st, 100 providers in Cook County alone have reported closing their doors.
…Meanwhile, the data in the National Women’s Law Center’s 2015 report clearly show the rest of the nation going in the opposite direction of Illinois: increasing income-eligibility, decreasing parent co-payments, extending job search grace periods, and increasing reimbursement rates to child care providers.
As the NWLC report states:
Families’ access to child care assistance and/or the extent of assistance they could receive increased under one or more key child care assistance policies in nearly two-thirds of the states—twice the number of states in which families’ access to assistance and/or the extent of assistance decreased—between February 2014 and February 2015. This year’s trend built on progress made in each of the previous two years, when families experienced improvements in more states than they experienced cutbacks, and contrasted with the two years before that, when families experienced cutbacks in more states than they experienced improvements.
At a time when early care and education is more recognized than ever as an essential work support for parents and a vital first rung on the education ladder for all children, Illinois has foolishly chosen to go against that trend and dramatically reduce its investment in children and families.
Illinois Action for Children, Voices for Illinois Children, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Latino Policy Forum, the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children (IL AEYC) and Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois join the National Women’s Law Center in its call to significantly increase investments in child care at the federal and state level. Furthermore, we call on Governor Rauner and Illinois General Assembly to repeal, revoke, or otherwise recall the changes to the Child Care Assistance Program that have made Illinois the shame of the United States when it comes to child care access.