Long-term solution sought for childcare assistance

After more than 80 percent of families in need of childcare assistance were denied during the Illinois budget impasse, help may be on the way.

For the past five months a single parent with two children making minimum wage was still making too much to qualify for childcare assistance.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration has revised eligibility requirements to raise that figure to $15.50 an hour, or roughly $2,700 a month.

After 47 years in childcare, Lois Malone says the guilt of turning away a family in need keeps her up at night.

"It’s been heartbreaking,” said Malone.  “There are many nights that I’ve been sleepless knowing that we’ve been sending parents away who need care."

Due to restrictions on childcare assistance during the budget impasse, Malone says her daycare has more than 50 fewer children than on July 1 because parents no longer have affordable options.

"They’re leaving children at home or they’re going door to door every day to find someone to watch them," said Malone.

John A. Logan Child Care Resource and Referral Director Lori Longueville says raising the eligibility threshold to $15.50 will help, but it’s not a long-term fix.

"It doesn’t change the fact that every year or every other year childcare is on the chopping block,” said Longueville.  “We need to look at ways to not make that happen."

"Children and families aren’t pawns,” said Malone. “They are living, breathing, feeling individuals, and our state should put them first."

While Rauner says the plan is costly, he plans to return funding to pre-impasse levels once a budget is reached.

If you’ve applied for childcare assistance and were denied under the old guidelines, you can reapply.

However, you may want to hold off until after the Nov. 17 when the new terms go into effect.

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