Illinois budget stalemate means sweeping changes to Child Care Assistance Program

Quad City childcare providers say they are being forced to turn away families because Illinois still doesn’t have a state budget.

Quad City childcare providers say they are being forced to turn away families because Illinois still doesn't have a state budget.

At P & J Tender Care in Moline, site director Sarah Chavez said she’s had to turn away about four families over the past two months, even though there are at least seven openings at the daycare.

“We’ve had families coming in, asking for childcare, and we’ve had to turn them down,” said Chavez.

Chavez said she is unable to fill the spots due to changes in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, or CCAP. When the new fiscal year began on July 1, 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner implemented sweeping changes to the program, essentially putting a freeze on new applicants.

Under the new guidelines, families only qualify for assistance if they meet one of four criteria:

- Parents receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- Teenage parents
- Parents of children who have special needs
- Parents who make less than half of the federal poverty level

That means a single parent with one kid must make less than $8,000 a year to be eligible for aid. Before July 1st, they could make nearly $29,000.

In a statement, Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said:

“One of the governor’s first actions in office was to save child care from the deliberate underfunding by the Democratic majority in the last fiscal year. Now, the administration is taking steps to responsibly manage the state’s finances due to the $4 billion budget hole created by the legislature this year. The governor’s reforms will free up resources to help the most vulnerable and grow the economy.”

The CCAP intake freeze is expected to save the state $5.3 million monthly.

Many childcare providers, though, remain concerned.

Chavez says some parents are having to choose between working and paying full price for daycare.

“We have families, working families, who need childcare. That’s our job, that’s what we’re here for, and we can’t give them that service,” said Chavez.

Providers won’t know if the changes to CCAP are permanent or temporary until a state budget has been finalized.