Metro-East News

Praying for funding: Faith-based group wants state childcare assistance money restored

A metro-east faith-based group hopes the power of prayer can persuade one state lawmaker to vote to overturn new rules put in place by Gov. Bruce Rauner regarding qualifications for childcare assistance.

United Congregations of Metro-East is planning a prayer vigil from 4 to 5 p.m. on Monday outside the office of state Rep. Charlie Meier, located at 121 Broadway in Highland. The vigil comes on the eve of a House vote on Senate Bill 570, scheduled for Tuesday, to overturn Rauner’s new childcare assistance rules.

UCM believes the new rules for Illinois Childcare Assistance Program eligibility are “harsh and drastic.”

Under prior rules, a family of four making less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level could apply and qualify for some subsidy to pay for childcare. The amount of the subsidy was based on the family’s income. However, the new rules tightened the guidelines to 50 percent of the FPL, in addition to raising co-pays.

That, in turn, has led to childcare workers being laid off and an estimated 150 childcare businesses around the state closing their doors, according to UCM.

The reason for the new rules is the budget impasse between the Democratic-led General Assembly and Republican governor. This fiscal year began July 1, but a budget deal is still not in place. Rauner employed the new childcare provisions after the stalemate crossed into the new fiscal year. Rauner’s office called the rule changes responsible.

“One of the governor’s first actions in office was to save childcare 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,” said Catherine Kelly, spokesperson for Gov. Rauner.