To the Editor:
When the Illinois Department of Human Services changed the state’s Child Care Assistance Program income guidelines in July to compensate for the state’s budget woes, it—and Gov. Bruce Rauner—undermined a program established to ensure that low-income parents achieve self-sufficiency by going to work and providing for their families.
Previously, a family of three could earn a little more than $37,000 annually and receive a child-care subsidy. Under the new limits, that income level is reduced to $10,056—approximately 50 percent below the federal poverty line—for new applicants to the program. An estimated 90 percent of households previously eligible for the subsidy no longer qualify under the new guidelines, according to reports citing the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
The Rauner administration’s decision to change the income guidelines was ill-advised and shortsighted. The ramifications will be devastating for the working poor: Many parents will be forced to quit their jobs without affordable day care, and thousands of children will lose access to vital school-readiness skills and knowledge.
All of this comes in spite of evidence suggesting that the program is working. The state’s child-care assistance isn’t a handout; it’s a critical resource that empowers working parents, helps break the cycle of poverty, and supplies the state with a stronger workforce. Studies also show that securing affordable, quality child care will produce future dividends that far outweigh the upfront costs. Funding the child-care-assistance program is investing in a better life for working families and their children—and all Illinoisans.
Even in a cash-strapped state, this is an investment we can’t afford not to make.
Erie Neighborhood House
A version of this article appeared in the November 11, 2015 edition of Education Week as Illinois’ Cuts in Child-Care Aid Are ‘Devastating for the Working Poor’