Child care costs present a major barrier to employment for working parents. Illinois is home to 1.4 million working families, 30 percent of which are near or in poverty.((Working Poor Families data Chapter 1, Table 1.A.2a.)) In Cook County alone, the formal child care sector serves143,000 children below the age of 13, according to a report by Illinois Action for Children.
For many families, child care is as unaffordable as it is essential. The same report explains that a year of child care for a young child can cost as much as a year of college!
To reduce this heavy burden, the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program provides child care vouchers to parents at or below 185% of the federal poverty line. Vouchers from CCAP can bring child care costs for a low-income single parent from 49% of their income down to 7%. This provides additional benefits to child care providers in local economies, which are able to employ more staff with the help of subsidized child care.
However, right now, Illinois is in the middle of a fiscal crisis threatening the funding for CCAP. The program is short nearly $300 million, and without CCAP, providers cannot pay their employees, parents cannot go to work, and children will not receive care.
Because of the crisis, the state could run out of money to pay the 32,000 child care providers that take in these kids. Subsidies for some of the nearly 176,000 Illinois kids who rely on the program will stop next week, meaning some centers will have to lay off workers or even close.((Children, Parents Demand Funding for Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program))
After three months of job growth in the United States, there are more opportunities for many marginalized job seekers to find employment. But this progress is fragile, and cuts to child care assistance are a sure-fire way to undermine it. First, thousands of parents in Illinois may have to leave their jobs without access to affordable child care. Second, parents who–thanks to three months of job growth–finally have a chance to find or start work will not be able to if they can’t afford child care. Finally, child care workers will lose their jobs with such a dramatic decrease in the number of children to care for.
This crisis in childcare funding is just the first in a series of upcoming calamities that will harm Illinois’ working families unless the Governor and the General Assembly address the need for more revenue. Without it, the state cannot provide adequate education, health care, human services and public safety. The state’s fiscal crisis has been exacerbated by the reduction of Illinois’ income tax, which dropped in January from 5% to 3.75% for individuals and from 7% to 5.25% for corporations. Without renewing the 5% income tax, Illinois will have a 5 billion dollar budget hole, and a wide range of services will need to be cut or eliminated.