Subsidized child care funding could end for many Ill. families

Evelyn Holmes Image
Friday, January 23, 2015
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A state program that subsidizes child care costs is out of money.

BOLINGBROOK, Ill. (WLS) -- A state program that subsidizes child care costs is out of money, meaning that many families may be forced to find alternatives for their child care.

It's unclear what Gov. Rauner or state lawmakers plan on doing to fix the problem; some say it was made worse by the state income tax rollback.

Regardless of what the causes of the problem are, many agree that the consequences of these cuts could be devastating.

Single parent Kimberly Ballard doesn't know what she's going to do now that a state budget shortfall threatens the future of the child care subsidy she depends on to pay for her childrens' day care.

"It's just me trying to do my best and work and do the right thing," Ballard said. "Without the help, I don't know what's going to happen."

The Care Assistance Program helps low income and working families with child care costs, but is underfunded for the currently fiscal year by almost $300 million.

That means the state will run out of money to pay the 32,000 day care providers that take in these kids.

Melissa Areno's subsidy for her 2-year-old daughter Malyka ends in April.

"She's been singing her ABC's for weeks now, I mean they're not just a babysitter, they're really a teacher," Areno said.

At Kiddie Academy of Bolingbrook, around half the 166 children enrolled get the subsidy.

"Many of the other centers in Bolingbrook are more like 90-95 percent subsidy, so to look at Bolingbrook itself, it is going to be very effected by this," said Katie Moore, Kiddie Academy owner.

The crisis could force some day care providers to scale back service or even close. Subsidies for some of the nearly 176,000 Illinois kids who rely on the program will stop as early as next week.

"It's really hard to think that they might not be here as of Feb. 1," said Olga Dinos, Kiddie Academy of Bolingbrook director.

"Providers will experience payment delays after Feb. 1 due to a lack of state funding. We sincerely regret any hardship this lack of funding causes," the Illinois Department of Human Services said a statement.

Meanwhile, local advocacy groups want state lawmakers to pass an emergency supplemental funding bill to save the program.

"Governor Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly really needs to think about if they want to continue prioritizing children, working families and building a strong state economy or not," said Amy Emerson of Child Care Resource and Referral.

State officials say they still have access to some federal funds and will be able to make some partial payments. In the meantime, many day care providers say they will continue to work with families to try to keep that child care going.