Major changes coming to Illinois childcare eligibility – WGN-TV

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois is just days away from a deadline for parents to give input on the state funding for early childcare.

Major changes in who is eligible for subsidies have just gone through in a process that’s been anything but transparent.

Now 90 percent of the people who used to be eligible for state help, aren’t any longer.

Most people don’t know about these new guidelines because the governor’s office was able to file what’s called an “emergency rule,” citing the state’s financial situation as the “emergency.”

No public input was required for that.

Now critics warn this new rule will create another crisis, this time for families and communities.

The Illinois Department of Human Services says because of projected funding shortfalls in fiscal year 2016, it’s reducing its Child Care Assistance program.

People eligible for childcare assistance are now:

  • Parents receiving state welfare
  • Teen parents
  • Parents of children who have special needs
  • And parents who make less than half of the federal poverty level.

This leaves out the working poor.

A single parent with one child used to be able to earn a little more than $2,400 a month to be eligible for assistance. Now a family of two can only make $664 a month to get state help. That’s 27 percent of the old standard.

The monthly earnings of a 40-hour-a-week minimum wage worker in Chicago are $1,600 dollars. The new standard is less than half of that.

The dramatic changes are blindsiding parents. The governor bypassed lawmakers and public comment by setting the new guidelines as an “emergency rule.”  Earlier this month, a bipartisan committee had to determine if this kind of “budget management” in Illinois constitutes a true “emergency” or if the governor overreached.

Ultimately, the panel was divided on the issue. So for now, the governor’s rule stands.

An emergency rule is temporary; this one expires in November. But the governor’s office has already started the work to make the change more permanent. Before that happens, you can weigh in, and you have until the end of the month to write in comments to members of the committee in charge of this decision. Advocates have also asked for public hearings.

State senator Toi Hutchinson is sponsoring a bill that would make sure the Department of Human Services takes into account changing levels of minimum wage, taxes and daycare costs before making dramatic changes to what families qualify for aid.

How to contact the committee in charge of rules:

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules is a bipartisan legislative oversight committee created by the General Assembly.

Email:  jcar@ilga.gov
Website: http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/