Three highlights from a new publication by the Economic Policy Institute illustrate the ways high-quality child care is out of reach for working and middle-class families in Illinois and Chicago. This report also reminds us how Gov. Rauner’s cuts to childcare are exacerbating this problem for working families.
These cuts shut out 9 in 10 new applicants who would have previously qualified for child care assistance. Before Governor Rauner’s cuts, a parent with one child could earn up to $2,456 per month (about $14 an hour working 40 hours per week) and still be eligible for child care assistance. Now, a parent re-entering the workforce with one child loses child care assistance if they make more than $664 per month, which is only about 20 hours per week at the state’s minimum wage.
- Child care costs account for a significant portion of family budgets, as seen in the chart below. In the Chicago area, a middle-class family with an infant and 4-year-old will spend about 29% of its income on quality child care.
The EPI report emphasizes that quality child care is straining many working class family budgets, costing significantly more than the 10% affordability threshold set up by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
- Inaccessible childcare ultimately translates to the loss an individual’s freedom and ability to work and provide for their family. Stagnant hourly pay and the failure of trickle down economic growth in reaching most Illinoisans, compounded with unaffordable child care, disproportionately affects minimum-wage workers.
High quality, dependable and affordable child care for children of all ages is more important than ever, especially since having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families.
- Child care costs are particularly high for younger children. In 33 states and the District of Columbia, infant care costs exceed the average cost of in-state college tuition at public 4-year institutions.
Child care must be prioritized— especially when the annual cost of care for an infant is 102% more expensive than full-time, in-state public college tuition in Illinois. This means parents spend nearly $4 out of every $5 earned on affordable childcare.
The new EPI data shows the governor’s cuts to child care come at exactly the wrong time, given the economic realities so many working families face. Making child care less affordable for struggling, working families takes our state in the wrong direction.