Letter: Child Care Assistance Program makes child care more available, affordable in Illinois

Now more than ever, Illinois’ working families need quality, affordable child care they can rely on — not only for their children, but also for their own job security and economic well-being. For these reasons, we applaud recent changes made to the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) that will make child care more available and affordable in our state.

Illinois has the eighth-most expensive infant and toddler care in the nation (Illinois Risk & Reach Report, 2019). This makes CCAP even more important to the families it serves. The changes made to the program by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) will lower the child care co-payments that income-eligible parents must pay to no more than 9% of their gross income, and at the same time will raise the income eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level.

Both of these changes will continue to right the wrongs of the previous administration’s incredibly damaging 2015 CCAP rules changes, which restricted eligibility and saw thousands of families lose access to child care as a result. New CCAP policy changes made in this new Illinois budget year include increased investments in the Gateways to Opportunity child care provider professional development scholarship program, and expanded eligibility for providers to participate in the Great START Wage supplement program that encourages Gateways participation.

Taken as a whole, these changes will benefit children, families and the child-care workforce in our state. We applaud Gov. JB Pritzker for his stated — and demonstrated — commitment to making Illinois the standard-bearer for early care and education in the United States.

At the same time, we know that more can and needs to be done. We look forward to working with the governor, IDHS and legislators to further reduce co-payments and increase income-eligibility beyond the new guidelines, while advocating for more robust compensation of and support for early care and education workforce.